More than 200 members of Plattsburgh State faculty attended an open informational meeting Tuesday afternoon in Yokum 208, where professors discussed what action they could take in diffusing current racial tensions on campus and how to solve the hot issue in a more long-term sense.
By the end of the meeting, faculty voted in a tentative majority to at least continue a discussion about holding a vote of no confidence that could mirror that of the PSUC Student Association.
The PSUC Student Association proposed three new resolutions at a forum Friday night in the Angell College Center Warren Ballrooms.
The first resolution called for an amendment to the student code of conduct that would mandate disciplinary action, such as expulsion, against individuals who commit any form of discrimination or hate speech. The SA executive board passed this resolution at their weekly meeting Monday night.
The two subsequent resolutions called for Vice President of Student Affairs Bryan Hartman to replace PSUC President Dr. John Ettling as interim president should he resign, and announced a vote of no confidence in Ettling, Director of Student Conduct Larry Allen and Chief Diversity Officer J.W. Wiley. Of the two, only the vote of no confidence passed at the executive board meeting.
The consensus among professors who spoke at the faculty meeting was one of regret that things had not been done sooner to assure students on campus feel comfortable and understood.
Director of Admissions Carrie Woodward proposed a handful of ideas the faculty senate could adopt in order to begin to remedy the situation. Woodward requested a formal response from Ettling and Hartman in regard to the SA’s resolutions, as well as a written report of the meetings between SUNY representatives and students on Monday.
The meetings took place in five 50-minute sessions that consisted of small groups of students who voiced their concerns to Vice Chancellor/Chief Diversity Officer Carlos Medina and Senior Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives/Chief of Staff Teresa Miller, both of the SUNY Administration Office in Albany.
Woodward also proposed the faculty senate amend bylaws to focus on diversity and inclusion, as well as the PSUC president conduct a full review of already existing initiatives, programs and services in that area.
Distinguished English Professor Thomas Morrissey additionally proposed the faculty senate move to amend the PSUC general education curriculum to include required diversity class credits, as well as requiring both US history and western civilization in the curriculum. Currently, students are only required to take one of the two.
“We have a general education program which is one of the weakest in the [SUNY] system,” Morrissey said. “It’s not one that was generated by faculty, and it has gaping holes in it.”
Morrissey later expressed that he believed faculty would be willing to take on added diversity classes.
“The faculty then would have to put our butts on the line here, and we would have to go into classrooms and do this,” Morrissey said. “Those of us who already do it would be delighted, and there are many others who would do it if they could. I just don’t think we’re utilising the resources that we have well enough.”
Director of Academic Advising Suzanne Daley reminded the faculty to keep the ball rolling in the weeks approaching and after spring break.
“The reason we’re here is we have so many missed opportunities,” Daley said. “Missed opportunities in leadership… in moments in time… Do not lose this momentum.”
John Locke, adjunct lecturer for communication studies, expressed his deep care for the campus community, adding that he offered to pick up pizzas for some of those boycotting the dining halls on campus
“I gave students my phone number,” Locke said. “I swear to God, I would take a bullet for these students if I had to, and I think we all feel that way.”
Editor’s Note: The above photograph from today’s faculty meeting was cropped by Cardinal Points staff so as to not show the racist slur from the Snapchat post by Maria Gates. The faculty present were shown the original uncensored image.