Officials at Texas A&M University-San Antonio have declined to comment on a decision this summer to appoint an interim dean of students, replacing Jo Anna Benavides-Franke.
On July 8, the university notified employees through an email that Joni Baker, Title IX coordinator, had agreed to serve as interim dean of students. The email, signed by Dr. Mari Fuentes-Martin, vice president for student success and engagement, also mentioned a national search would launch in July for a dean of students. The position has not been filled yet as Baker continues to take charge of the position.
Benavides- Franke did not respond to Facebook or Instagram messages sent from The Mesquite on Aug. 25 and Sept. 2.
Jacob Goldstein, Student Government Association president, told The Mesquite SGA is on the search committee for a new dean.
“Unfortunately, the university has not provided any official information with SGA with a justification to removal,” Goldstein said in an Aug. 27 Instagram message.
SGA has taken this opportunity to ensure student representation in choosing the new dean of students, Goldstein said.
The Mesquite submitted an open records request on Sept. 8 to the university to obtain Benavides-Franke’s start and end date along with her salary, but has not received a response by deadline. This story will be updated with the information once received.
Fuentes-Martin, who supervises the dean of students, told The Mesquite “the University does not comment on questions related to personnel,” in an email Aug. 25.
Mike O’Brien, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said Aug. 30 he had no information on Benavides-Franke’s departure.
The Mesquite also requested an official university comment from Director of University Communications Jenny Collier and was told “we (the university) do not comment on personnel issues.”
Joni Baker, the interim dean of students and Title IX coordinator, responded to The Mesquite on Aug. 25 saying she was willing to be interviewed after running the request by University Communications.
Baker told The Mesquite in an Aug. 31 email, “with the onset of the semester and the demands of two full-time jobs, I’m not going to have time for an interview.”
The July 8 email from Fuentes-Martin began by outlining the mission of the division of student success and engagement and announcing a divisional reorganization.
The second section described key changes: New Student Program leaders, new Cisneros Institute coordinator position and a title change for Dr. Edwin Blanton.
The third section explained that Baker would oversee student rights and responsibilities, disability support services and the student counseling center as interim dean of students. Richard Delgado, executive director of Military Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, provides support for student housing.
In addition to these changes, the email said starting Sept. 1, the Office of New Student Programs and Student Involvement would report to Fuentes-Martin. They will continue to report to her until the dean of students position is filled.