LIBERTY, Mo. — The Tucker Leadership Lab challenge course on the campus of William Jewell College has been suspended.

In an email sent out Friday, Aug. 11, Jewell Unlimited Executive Director Conner Hazelrigg said the suspension was in part to an “ongoing comprehensive program evaluation.”

Jewell Unlimited is a separate entity on the college’s campus, set up by the college leaders themselves.

The lab has nearly 30 part-time employees, but Hazelrigg said only about half of those people are likely active. Two of the lab employees, or facilitators as they’re called, said they don’t work there for the money.

“We did work for peanuts, but we loved it to be honest, right?” Tucker Leadership Lab Lead Facilitator Katie Alsip said in an interview with FOX4 Wednesday.

Alsip said her program serves 45 high schools in our area. The challenge course helps students with team building skills.

“It was the best job that I’ve ever had,” she continued.

Alsip has worked for the lab for the past eight years, but she’s concerned she’ll no longer have a job because of the suspension. Both she and co-worker Mike Dryer have experienced changes at the campus over the last month.

“By Aug. 11, I actually met with the leader of Jewell Unlimited myself,” Dryer said in an interview with FOX4 Wednesday.

“I had a meeting before we had our last group. My group was 1 to 3 [p.m.] There were four facilitators out here doing what we do on the course that doesn’t use the built lows, and we were canceled at 2:38 [p.m.] without even being able to look at our calendar anymore.”

That cancellation happened the same day the email came out. Hazelrigg recommended we speak with the college’s Vice President of Marketing Eric Blair who said costs are part of the reason for the pause.

“Again, being clear here, no one was un-hired, AKA, suspended or laid off,” Blair said in an interview with FOX4 Wednesday when asked when these workers will get rehired.

“They just don’t have opportunities to work. Just like, during the slow months when the winter’s here and we couldn’t work because of the weather, same difference. It’s just an extended period with a lack of clarity of when those hours will start back up in earnest.”

The facilitators have missed one paycheck so far because of the program suspension.

On Monday, Sept. 11, the family of Dr. Paul W. Tucker, which started the Tucker Leadership Lab issued the following statement:

The suspension of William Jewell College’s Tucker Leadership Lab is part of an “ongoing comprehensive evaluation,” according to Conner Hazelrigg, Exec. Dir., Jewell Unlimited, as interviewed by FOX4KC’s Jonathan Ketz.

Comprehensive implies “complete; including all or nearly all elements or aspects of something.” In reality, William Jewell College’s top administrators have excluded virtually all stakeholders in their decision-making, including employees, clients, community, and donors. A long-scheduled July 28 meeting between Tucker family donors and William Jewell College president, Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, about the program’s future was abruptly cancelled by Clark Morris, V.P. Advancement. The college has left donors uninformed and dedicated employee-facilitators unpaid and confused.

Eric Blair, VP Marketing, William Jewell College, alluded to costs as “part of the reason for the pause.” The Deed of Gift establishing the Tucker Leadership Lab in 2000 stated that endowment income and any subsequent revenue would be “used to operate, maintain, and improve” the program, or be reinvested. While times and finances may change, lack of transparency destroys trust.

As to “un-hired” workers “lacking opportunities to work,” quoting Mr. Blair, it is difficult to comprehend lack of work opportunity for an acclaimed program so widely used by the college and wider Kansas City community for over two decades — with recent events scheduled for William Jewell College Volleyball, Freshmen Orientation, and more.

Questions remain; open dialogue does not. Tucker family representatives express gratitude to the many Tucker Leadership Lab staff members who believed their work had meaning and positive impact on students and other participants, and express deep disappointment in William Jewell College.