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  • Student affairs post cut in SOU transition

  • Southern Oregon University is eliminating its vice president of student affairs position, leaving Jonathan Eldridge without a job by the end of the year.
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  • Southern Oregon University is eliminating its vice president of student affairs position, leaving Jonathan Eldridge without a job by the end of the year.
    Campus officials said Thursday the position was being cut as part of an effort to hand over the responsibilities of the department to other areas of campus.
    The university hopes to have the reorganization and transition process wrapped up by the end of December, officials said.
    "We have a transition team in place "… we'll be working over this term to come up with a new plan to complete the reorganization," said Jim Beaver, SOU director of interactive marketing and media relations. "Our goal right now is to be as student-focused as we possibly can "… we want to achieve more interdependence and more collaboration across campus."
    Eldridge did not return multiple voice messages left on his office and cellphones Thursday.
    Eldridge last month announced that four management-level positions would be eliminated in the Department of Student Affairs, including dean of students, held by Laura O'Bryon. SOU hoped to increase student retention and graduation rates by replacing those positions with up to eight lower-level, student support personnel.
    Beaver wasn't certain exactly how many positions could arise from the department's reorganization, or whether there will even be a students affairs department after the process ends.
    "That's what the transition is about "… they're trying to figure most of that stuff out," he said.
    Eldridge will remain on SOU's payroll through the end of December to help the university work through the reorganization, Beaver said.
    After that process is over, Eldridge "will be moving on," Beaver said.
    SOU hopes to increase students' access to one-on-one advising time focused on post-graduation success, such as career development and finding a job, Beaver said.
    SOU currently is working to hire a director of retention, which will be an administrative position and hold many of the responsibilities O'Bryon handled as dean of students, Eldridge said last month.
    Some of Eldridge's responsibilities likely will be taken over by the Academic Affairs Department, Beaver said.
    The school is also hiring a career preparation coordinator, an additional adviser, a coordinator for the university's student support program called Success at Southern, a councilor in the student health center, and two administrative program assistants, its website shows.
    Eldridge said last month the reorganization may also include hiring two part-time counseling positions.
    SOU's goal is to push the retention rate to 75 percent within the next two years. In 2005, the school retained 62 percent of its previous year's non-graduating student population. Currently the school's retention rate is floating around 70 percent.
    In an email Eldridge wrote to the entire SOU staff announcing the reorganization effort, he said, "It goes without saying that staff reductions due to state disinvestment, coupled with student demographics that require significant levels of support, have hampered our retention efforts. This is why the following reorganization is being launched."
    Beaver said the reorganization will help SOU better align its resources to meet student needs, and "get the most out of what we have."
    Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.
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