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Let MCC move the Damon Center

I am the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of the College at Mount Holyoke College, and I would not be where I am today were it not for Monroe Community College. During a recent visit to Rochester for my induction into the MCC Alumni Hall of Fame, I learned the exciting news about the college's effort to relocate its downtown campus. This relocation – finally a campus students can call their own –is encouraging news and long overdue!

I began my college education as a non-traditional student at MCC's Damon City Campus in the mid-1990s. In addition to needing a college experience that taught me how to be a college student, I needed access to an institution that was in the downtown area and that would allow me to continue working full time. MCC was the right choice and taking classes at Damon was the best decision I could have made.

In my role at Mount Holyoke, I oversee everything related to student life on campus. I have seen first-hand the impact of quality services, facilities, and environments on student learning. I have learned that the institutions that commit the necessary time, energy, and resources to creating an exceptional college experience do the best job of inspiring student success and preparing our future leaders. By developing this new campus and expanding programs and services, MCC will be creating the kind of environment and experience that will serve students and the community for many years to come.

As I thought about my recent visit, the honor that was bestowed upon me, and my time as a student at MCC, it struck me that a new downtown campus can only enhance the college's role in the community. As an institution of opportunity, MCC helps people, like me, change their lives, and this strengthens all of Greater Rochester. That is exactly the kind of place we want our family members to begin their college education. That is exactly the kind of place we want as a launching pad for all careers.

It is my sincere hope that the people and leaders of Monroe County will see the same opportunity I see and do all they can to support MCC. Let us work together to create a downtown campus that students and the city deserve.

Although Mary Anna Towler says that she has talked with people on both sides of the controversy, her article provides not one scrap of new information to support the conclusion that firing the conductor was "the only thing" the RPO board "could do." Whatever new insight she may have gleaned from her conversations, she has chosen to withhold from her readers.

Does Towler agree with RPO chairperson Elizabeth Rice (in her WXXI radio interview) that the "general public does not need to know" what went on "behind the scenes" that led to the board's decision? Some journalism!

Towler also writes that Remmereit's supporters "seem to have heard only one side of this conflict." Actually, so far the RPO's audience has very little solid information to go on from either side regarding the roots and progression of the conflict to its truly awful outcome. Remmereit, through his lawyer, claims that the RPO's management treated him in a "demeaning" and "dismissive" manner that created a "hostile work environment," but what did this actually involve? On the other side, the board's statements focus on a process by which it says it attempted to resolve conflicts that remain largely unspecified.

In this environment of very limited reliable information, it is easy to jump to conclusions that may be ill founded. But as of now, the board has not made a convincing public case for a decision that will deprive the RPO and its audience of an excellent conductor who, in his brief time here, has brought much new vitality to Rochester's classical music scene. Remmereit did not arrive here with a reputation as an arrogant prima donna who is impossible to work with, and it is hard to imagine how he turned into one over the last year, while at the same time winning over much of the public and leading such fine performances.

If there is any chance of saving Remmereit for Rochester, concerned citizens need to act now, not just passively accept the board's statements or Towler's equally vague assurances that "the board did the right thing." This is why over 900 people (and counting) have signed the online petition protesting Remmereit's dismissal and calling for reconsideration of a decision that carries such severe financial and cultural costs.

Mary Anna Towler's response: I didn't withhold anything from readers. I wrote what I knew – including that people on both sides of this issue, with the same information, have reached different conclusions. (See former board member Kishan Pandya's comment above.)

In Mary Anna Towler's recent editorial favoring Arild Remmereit's contract termination, my attention was drawn to her statement: "The board has tried for more than a year to set things right. Initially, board leaders tried to remedy the situation themselves. But, they say, the problem grew worse...."

Having this information, one might logically wonder who to blame for the failure. It is known that the leadership, a significant time before the crisis became public, blamed Remmereit. However, isn't it also possible that they reacted to the developing crisis ineptly and lost control of a situation that might very well have been handled more effectively by others?

Unless the RPO leadership is infallible (which can fairly be ruled out), might it not be possible to conclude that it is they who should be fired rather than the RPO's Music Director?

Until Remmereit, the best RPO conductor was Erich Leinsdorf, who conducted here in the 1940's. Under Leinsdorf, the RPO was electrifying, better than most big-city orchestras. The RPO couldn't keep Leinsdorf, any more than the Red Wings could keep Stan Musial. Leinsdorf went on to a brilliant career, ending as conductor of the Boston Symphony.

Remmereit is better than Leinsdorf, and today's RPO is better than the 1940's RPO. Remmereit is also much better in the community than Leinsdorf.

The problem seems to be money. There's a ton of talent in this town, and there must be a hot-shot marketing guy who can market Remmereit and the RPO well enough to make ends meet. Recordings, increased ticket prices, whatever. There's got to be a way.

We'll never again have a talent like Remmereit. Hey, he could be better than Stan Musial!