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Sid Richardson masters resign

By Catherine Bratic     2/5/09 6:00pm

After four years as masters of Sid Richardson College and one year away from completing their term, masters Michael Orchard and Melissa Marschall resigned Wednesday night. Sid President Claire Shorall said they plan to take a sabbatical next year and remain at Sid as associates upon their return. The announcement was made at Sid's weekly council meeting. At the meeting, Orchard, and electrical engineering professor, and Marschall, a political science professor, said they will remain in their role through the end of the semester and step down to allow new masters to take over at the beginning of the next academic year.

Orchard and Marschall's four years as masters were eventful, Shorall said. Their term was marked by controversies: Racially-charged vandalism appeared in the college coordinator's office in January 2008, a student filed a sexual harassment complaint in January 2006 because of a Sid council minutes' back page, and disciplinary action against Sid students who violated Rice's university-wide policies of remaining inside during Hurricane Ike in September.

Shorall said she thought Orchard and Marschall did their jobs admirably considering the circumstances.



"They're incredible people, and I've loved working with them," she said.

In addition to a variety of difficult issues, Orchard and Marschall had two children during their time as masters in addition to their three other children, two of whom are students at Rice. Shorall said family commitments forced the masters to spend more time in their house and less time at the college socializing with students.

"It's been very taxing on them to raise a family while being masters," she said.

Sid junior Chris McClure said a lack of communication probably played the biggest role in their resignations.

"The barriers that they've created between them and the students this year were too big to be removed in a year, and ... the only thing left to do was move on," McClure said.

Shorall said that many misinterpreted the masters' withdrawal from Sid affairs.

"A lot of tension arises from the fact that they weren't that visible within the college," Shorall said. "A lot of people viewed that lack of visibility as a lack of interest when that wasn't the case at all. Anybody who really got to know them realized what great people they were."

Given such demands on their time, most Sid students viewed Orchard and Marschall's tenure in context.

"I'd say that they've tried really hard to be good masters," Sid sophomore Mishal Thadani said. "I don't think there will be hard feelings."

A committee has already been formed to search for a new master. Shorall said that Sid hopes to find a replacement within six weeks, an expedited schedule.

Once a new master is chosen, Orchard and Marschall will get a chance to step back and take a needed break, Shorall said.

"They're going to make awesome associates," Shorall said. "I can't wait to see them when they have free time.



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