By LIBBY CUDMORE • for www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Over 200 students filled the Dewar Union during a Board of Trustees meeting this afternoon to advocate that their voices be heard and show solidarity for senior Noah Jager, who says he was asked to resign from his post as coordinator of student life after he sent out an anonymous e-mail Campus Safety believed to be a threat.
“They’re cutting programs, they’re letting faculty go and we’re not allowed in on those conversations,” said Jager. “We pay them to work for us, and we want them to listen to our concerns. ”
In January, Jager sent out an anonymous e-mail with the quote “Sometimes the forest must burn….” “It’s about rebirth,” he said. “I’m a bio major, and when forests burn down, rain and sun get in and new flowers can grow.”
But Campus Safety didn’t see it that way, and he was brought in for questioning. “They thought I was going to shoot up the school,” he said. “But anyone who knows me knows that’s not true. It’s a message of change.”
At a student conduct meeting last week, Jager says he was given the option of having a conversation with the trustees and writing letters of apology, as well as resigning from Student Life and the Commencement Committee and undergoing mental health treatment.
In an e-mail to students, Dr. Meg Nowak, VP of student affairs, clarified some of the rumors going around campus. “No student has been stripped of their titles by the President or the Board for contacting the Board of Trustees,” she wrote. “No student is being forced to undergo psychological evaluations for contacting the Board of Trustees.”
Wearing name tag badges that all said “Noah,” students shared their own grievances as well. “I have a nut allergy, and I’ve tried to get more accommodation for that,” said senior Claudia Kass. “I’ve had meetings with the administration, but they just put up signs warning of allergens, rather than fix it. I don’t feel respected.”
“A group of students chose to assemble publicly today to discuss campus issues. Hartwick College fully supports its students as they exercise a fundamental American right to freedom of speech and protest,” said Nowak in a statement. “Further, we are committed to continue an open dialogue with any group from the Hartwick community that expresses concerns about any aspect of the College’s operations. Addressing student issues is, and will always be, a top priority for the leaders of the College.”
“We want change,” said Jager. “We want communication and transparency. We pay tuition, but we don’t know where that money goes. It’s our money, and it’s frustrating to see that student priorities are not being put first.”
As the trustees meeting let out, Chairman Francis Landry addressed the students. “We appreciate your engagement,” he said. “We’ll hear your concerns in an organized way, and we’ll be meeting with folks.”