WSU-Rochester students agitated over professor’s departure

WSU-Rochester+campus

Contributed photo.

WSU-Rochester elementary education students feel Wolff’s exit was unjust. Winona State’s Rochester Education Department only has four other professors in it, with just one being a full-time professor instead of an assistant professor. With Wolff’s departure, the Rochester department lost 20% of its professors.

Sophia Sailer, news editor

David Wolff, a previous professor at Winona State University who taught elementary education at the Rochester campus, recently left his position at the school to the surprise of many of his students.

Several students were stunned by the seeming disappearance of their favorite professor, having had no communication from Wolff or Winona State of his departure.

Students part of RED (Rochester Education Department) Warriors Together, assumed Wolff had been fired and contacted Winona State to inquire why.

“More than half of us in the current junior class will be looking to transfer to other institutions to finish our degrees and/or our graduate level work if David isn’t going to be with us,” RED said. “As for those of us that have already graduated, we will most certainly make our displeasure known to those that inquire about Winona State as a potential school to attend.”

Winona State’s Rochester Education Department only has four other professors in it, with just one being a full-time professor instead of an assistant professor. With Wolff’s departure, the Rochester department lost 20% of its professors.

The student group received no word back about Wolff’s absence from Winona State, which disappointed and concerned the students even more, the group explained.

However, Wolff stated his time at WSU-Rochester came to an end due to his single-year contract with the university.

“For clarification, I was not forced to leave WSU. I accepted a one-year position with the understanding that there wouldn’t be a position for the following year,” Wolff said.

Wolff also spoke positively of his experience teaching atWinona State.

“I loved working at WSU-Rochester,” Wolff said. “I loved how innovative the department is to create meaningful and authentic learning experiences for the teacher candidates. We have amazing students and community partners; my colleagues have been very supportive and mentors to me.”

Still, some WSU-Rochester elementary education students feel Wolff’s exit was unjust. For students part of RED, the loss cut deep.

“We have been trying to speak with someone from the university, but they have yet to return any of our messages,” the group said. “The lack of communication has been truly disappointing from the university, but we feel like something must be done given how much we all adore David as a person and instructor.”

In an email sent by RED on the situation, students stated although they think of Winona State as a “family,” they would not remain quiet regarding their feelings.

“We take no joy in writing this email. We all have been proud to be a part of the Winona State family. But like an actual family, you sometimes must stand up for them when it’s needed… we all consider David to be part of [our family].”

Christopher Burbank, a third- year elementary education student, spoke on the education students’ impression of how long Wolff would be at the university, based on language used upon Wolff’s hiring. To him, Wolff’s absence is a hard pill to swallow.

“We were under the understanding that David (Wolff) came in to revamp the program that we are all in,” Burbank explained. “Later [we were] told that there was restructuring going on and he would not be brought back, which was a shock for us because we were under the impression that he would be there for us through our whole program and that ended up not being the case,” Burbank said.

Burbank also commented that the words Wolff used in his goodbye to students was that he was “let go.” “The way he talked… I mean, he talked about what we were going to do next semester,” Burbank said. “Which made it seem like he was going to be with us.”

Learning that Wolff was under a one-year contract, Burbank explained how he and the other members of RED have become agitated due to the lack of communication.

“There was this moment where we were thinking, ‘no one is listening to us, we are all really upset, can we get something to happen?’” Burbank explained.

Burbank also expressed his disappointment with Winona State due to the situation.

“Winona State was highly regarded from teachers I work with. Everywhere I went, ‘Winona State’ was always the words told back to me if I asked where to go [for school]. It’s honestly just frustrating,” Burbank said.

Wolff was a huge part of Burbank’s experience at Winona State, he said, and he thinks it is a great loss Winona State did not retain Burbank.

“The university itself is missing out on a huge opportunity if they do not bring David back,” Burbank said.

Wolff does not know what his future endeavors are yet, but said he is hopeful.

Students part of RED are now left reflecting on Wolff’s impact, of which there are many, they said.

“For example, one of our families recently had to recover from COVID and David didn’t hesitate to make himself available to assist in any way possible,” RED said. “David is the kind of educator we all aspire to be. He takes the time to ensure that all his students succeed and thrive, but outside of classwork, he makes himself available to students to simply talk if needed.”

Wolff too spoke of the positive experiences he had as a professor at the Rochester campus, saying there are “so many memories” he can fondly look back on.

“There are so many memories– working with our STEM camp last summer was amazing,” Wolff said. “Our GIP students created amazing science and engineering modules for the students at Riverside and Gage Elementary Schools.”