Klein: ‘President wished to bring in his own dean’ — H-SC mum on resignation

Published 5:28 pm Thursday, February 9, 2017

Student unrest is following the abrupt resignation of David A. Klein, Hampden-Sydney College’s (H-SC) longtime Dean of Students.

Students have planned a march in protest of his resignation for Thursday, Feb. 9, at 11:20 a.m. outside Atkinson Hall during the college’s planned convocation events.

The Tuesday announcement of Klein’s resignation came one day after the departure of Director of Athletics Richard Epperson, who the college said stepped down from his post last week for “personal reasons.”

“Last week, Provost (Dennis) Stevens let me know that (H-SC President Larry Stimpert) wished to bring in his own dean of students,” Klein said in an interview with The Herald Wednesday. “And that really is the long and the short of it. You know … when there’s a new administration, there’s always the prerogative to do that.”

He said the decision saddens his wife, B.A., and him deeply.

“We’ve been there for 28 years. It’s where I met B.A., where we’ve raised our children and where we’ve loved thousands of students. And it’s a family for us. It always has been. And it will continue to be. We love that place.”

Klein wouldn’t confirm he was asked to resign by Stevens. “I was given the opportunity to remain there until June. That seemed a little hard to do. …”

“We’re a family,” he said of the students’ decision to protest the decision. “Bless their hearts, they feel deeply. They are fine, fine people.”

“Richard and I have not spoken,” he said when asked if he thought his and Epperson’s departure were connected or related.

In a short statement on the college’s website, the Klein announcement quotes Stevens as stating Klein “stepped down to make way for new leadership in the office of student affairs. Given an opportunity to remain at the college through the end of this academic year, David has agreed to step aside now in order to facilitate a faster transition.”

When asked for an interview with college leadership, including Stevens and Stimpert, H-SC spokesman Gordon Neal offered, “Because this is a personnel matter, I’m going to refer you to the announcement on the college’s website.”

“We support Dean Klein, even when the administration does not,” march organizers stated on the event’s Facebook site.

“We will form outside of Atkinson Hall on Thursday during the convocation period to peacefully protest the forced resignation of … Klein, despite his constant effort to uphold the true definition of what Hampden-Sydney stands for. The more students the better. Let’s make a change to bring one of the most iconic Hampden-Sydney men back to this great school.”

In his statement, Stevens said many students and alumni “know David as a mentor, and his family has been an integral part of our community. Their love for this college is unparalleled, and their commitment to the young men who’ve passed through its gates is unwavering.”

Klein’s resignation is effective immediately.

Robert Sabbatini, the college’s associate dean of students, has agreed to serve as interim dean of students, according to Stevens’ statement.

“There’s been … tremendous outpour (for Klein)” said student Max Dash, who serves as editor of the college’s student newspaper, The Hampden-Sydney Tiger. “I mean, Facebook was flooded from reactions from students. He’s been here a while, and a lot of people have gotten to know him, alumni (and) students.”

“Understandably, there is a little bit of anger,” Dash said. “A little bit of, I’d say, just … people are confused because they have not really received much information, and so a lot of rumors are swirling around. People just really want to know why, but they’re starting to come to their own conclusions.”

Dash called Klein “a staple of the institution.”

“Epperson hasn’t really had much of a reaction specific to him on campus other than … longtime employees are now being ushered out is what it feels like … He just sort of adds to that climate of change coming, I’d say.”

Said Dash: “There’s (been) an outpour for Dean Klein … Tomorrow should be a pretty big event.”

As of press time Thursday morning, over 160 people noted their intentions of attending the march.

Numerous people took to the event page to protest Klein’s resignation.

“Let’s make a stand for the leadership and dedication that Dean Klein has made to Hampden-Sydney over his 30-plus-year career. #BringDAKBack” said Jake Edmonds, a H-SC student.

“We need more transparency,” wrote Noah Frazier.

On the college’s student affairs webpage, Klein previously said he was “an advocate of the mission of the college as I understand it; and I stress to the student affairs staff the link between (the)college mission and our work. Also, I promote among our staff the ideas that living our lives consistent with the college’s purpose and values and treating others, particularly students, with respect are the most powerful teaching tools we have to convey the college’s mission, those of example and modeling.”

Klein graduated from H-SC in 1978 and was named dean of students in 2004.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Klein said. “We live at the farm … in Buckingham County, and we’re going to be screaming our heads off at Tiger basketball, I believe, Saturday.”