The PSUC Student Association and PSUC Black Student Union Black Onyx formally called for resignations from President John Ettling, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Morgan, Director of Student Conduct Larry Allen and Chief of Diversity Officer J.W. Wiley at tonight’s forum in the Angell College Center Warren Ballrooms.
The forum was the third in a series of ongoing dialogues between students and administrators following years of repeated inaction on the part of the administration in response to racist events on campus.
In addition to one proposed resolution that stated the SA will not tolerate any sort of hate on campus, SA President Jessica Falace announced the SA’s recommendation that Ettling be replaced by Vice President of Student Affairs Bryan Hartman as interim president of PSUC.
“Bryan Hartman is the only member of the SUNY Plattsburgh community who has relentlessly supported and spoken on behalf of the student body,” Falace said. “Hartman has selflessly served the SUNY Plattsburgh community for 25 years… and [he] has taken the initiative to be involved with numerous organizations outside of his role.”
Falace demanded a formal response from SUNY System Chancellor Kristina Johnson by March 1.
Falace promised to forward the resolutions to Ettling and members of the cabinet, the SUNY Chancellor’s office, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, College Council members and local media.
The SA cited lack of proactive action, failing to keep faculty and staff accountable for their actions, insensitivity to students’ concerns and a lack of willingness to work with faculty, staff and students as their reasons for its stance.
More than 600 members of the campus community filled the ballroom while several audience members went back and forth with each other and expressed their thoughts on campus racism, administrators’ capabilities and the SA’s proposed resolutions.
PSUC has several hundred full- and part-time professors, lecturers and adjuncts who teach on campus, but when Director of the PSUC Educational Opportunity Program Kyla Relaford asked present faculty to raise their hands, fewer than 20 arms went up.
Professor Jean Ann Hunt hesitated before she told the packed room that she felt that people at this institution are not doing their job.
Attendee Shae O’Brien pleaded with listeners.
“I want more diversity on this campus, and I want it faster,” she said. “I’m not going to stay on this campus, lying in bed, anxious, thinking that my best friend who’s black is going to be lynched.”
At one point, Ettling addressed the crowd.
“I feel like I have let you down,” Ettling said. “I want nothing other than what’s in the best interest of students of SUNY Plattsburgh.”
Ettling also said two representatives from the SUNY administration in Albany, Vice Chancellor/Chief Diversity Officer Carlos Medina and Chief of Staff/Senior Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives Teresa Miller, will be on campus Monday to meet with students.
A campus-wide email from Hartman said the representatives will “listen to any and all concerns related to the experience of underrepresented students on campus and specifically the racists message that has surfaced at SUNY Plattsburgh.”
Hartman also addressed the mass of listeners.
“I’m in your debt,” he said. “The college is in your debt.”
Hartman said he believes his own name should have been on the list of proposed requests for resignation.
“We have failed you,” he said. “The sense of that responsibility is why I should be on that list.”
He added that he firmly believes Allen should not be removed from his position.
“His [Allen’s] approach appears cold and uncaring because he is one of the most impartial people we have on this campus,” Hartman said.
Interim Provost Morgan also responded to students calling for his resignation.
“I’m glad my name is on that list,” Morgan said. “I am deeply humbled by a lot of the things that I have heard, and they have gone to a corner of my soul.”
Sessions with the SUNY representatives will begin at 10 a.m. Monday and end at 3 p.m.
Students should reserve their meeting times through Falace or Black Onyx President Latay Moultrie.