Our Lady of the Lake University’s Embattled President Stepping Down

My San Antonio is reporting that Our Lady of the Lake University President Tessa Martinez Pollack is leaving her post March 1. The university made the announcement on Thursday.

The decision follows a tumultuous tenure during which Pollack eliminated a dozen degree majors, including religious studies and Mexican American studies, which faculty and students considered at the core of the Catholic university’s mission and identity.

That decision led to tension and a split among the university’s Trustees.

In January, the university revised its student handbook to protect students, faculty and staff from discrimination based upon “sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.”

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Since Pollack became president in 2002, the university has shed nearly 600 students, a downward enrollment trend that reportedly began before she arrived. This fall there was an increase of about 200 primarily weekend and online students.

Some students have questioned the university’s emphasis on “high demand, high wage” programs in science, technology, engineering and math instead of sharing the focus with the arts and humanities.

Tyler Tully, a religious studies senior who organized student protests of the cut majors, said he felt encouraged by the news of Pollack’s resignation.

Students who protested against the cuts formed the “Stand With the 12” Facebook group, and had created an online petition calling for Pollack’s resignation. The group has approximately 800 members, and the petition received about 290 signatories.

In 2007, the OLLU faculty assembly issued a vote of no confidence in Pollack after enrollment declines and layoffs.

In addition, board member Louis Escareño resigned Thursday from the seat he has held since 2010.

Pollack is the university’s seventh president, and the university’s first Hispanic leader. The Sisters of Divine Providence founded the school in 1895 and retains board membership.