At the beginning of spring semester, Lion’s Pause Co-Coordinators Keara Bores `19 and Marissa Ihrke `19 discovered that the Pause was missing about $1,000 from delivery jobs during interim, according to former Lion’s Pause Financial Assistant Bakr Al-Taie `21. Following a brief investigation, Bores and Ihrke fired Al-Taie, former Financial Officer Carlos Fernandez `21 and former Financial Assistant Regina Estrada `22.
Al-Taie and Estrada feel their firing was an accusation from Bores and Ihrke that they stole the missing money. This accusation feels unfair to them because it is just as likely that another Pause employee with access to the safe stole the money, Al-Taie and Estrada said. Bores and Ihrke confirmed that 11 Pause employee positions currently have access to the Pause’s safe but wrote in an email that they “do not suspect them [Al-Taie, Estrada and Fernandez] of stealing.” Bores and Ihrke declined to comment on the missing money and why Al-Taie, Estrada and Fernandez were fired.
Al-Taie and Estrada’s frustrations are also due to their perception that the Pause operated unprofessionally, both before the investigation and after it. During the first two weeks of Interim, Al-Taie and Estrada did not receive the financial reports from shifts they needed to properly do their jobs, they said. After Estrada informed Ihrke that she and Al-Taie were not receiving these reports, Ihrke began sending Al-Taie and Estrada the reports herself, but not until 8 p.m., hours after Al-Taie and Estrada’s shifts, Estrada said. This caused Al-Taie and Estrada’s work to be delayed.
“The whole Pause team is unprofessional,” Al-Taie said. “When you go to an office, you expect people working. People sleep in the office, people watch stuff in the office, people play basketball in the office.”
“We expect our staff to complete their jobs in a timely manner and expect that their work is of good quality,” Bores and Ihrke wrote in an email. “We hold them to a high standard of professionalism when they interact with their own staff, with other students, with College faculty and staff, and with performers, speakers and other guests in the Pause. We are consistently impressed by our staff’s capacity to balance the responsibilities of being a student with the responsibilities of running a business. Beyond that, we view the office as a place where our staff can do homework, watch Netflix, and hang out in their free time.”
Following the investigation, Bores and Ihrke explained to Al-Taie that he was being fired because they decided to replace the entire financial team, Al-Taie said. This explanation frustrates Al-Taie because the Pause retained one financial employee, current Financial Officer Will Jadkowski `21. Jadkowski declined to comment on this matter.
“We can’t speak to the specifics of why anyone was dismissed, but there was no decision to ‘clean house’ or anything like that,” Bores and Ihrke wrote in an email.
Due to the fact that Jadkowski is a domestic student and Al-Taie, Estrada and Fernandez are all international students, Al-Taie and Estrada suspect their firing may have something to do with the fact that they hail from abroad.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily because we’re international students, but if you look at it, we’re literally the most vulnerable on the team, because, anything goes wrong, and they make an accusation that can lead to us getting deported,” Estrada said. Bores and Ihrke declined to comment on this matter.
Following his firing, Al-Taie did not want his St. Olaf employment status file to show that he had been fired. Director of Student Activities and Buntrock Commons Kris Vatter wrote in an email that Al-Taie’s employment status was changed to resignation. Vatter declined to comment on this matter.
“I lost a job, I thought it was something that I was going to go on doing for the next three years, I thought it was pretty cool,” Al-Taie said. “I didn’t get an apology letter, I didn’t get anything from them.”