By: Evan Coyle
On Thursday March 7th Daemen students from Student Government organized a forum for students and administration to discuss the current climate on campus.
A growing discontentment among minority students surrounding the issue of representation and inclusion on campus has become more visible on campus.
There were six notable takeaways from the open forum.
The Daemen College Student Government Association (SGA) requested the apologies of Dr. Nayor, Kim Pagano, and Alvin Roberts for not being more sensitive to inclusion and student representation on campus.
Each of these individuals offered heartfelt apologies in front of the attending student body and again later that night via email.
Dr. Nayor said during the forum, “Despite our best efforts, we dropped the ball.”
Adding, “It is obvious across campus that people are hurt.”
Alvin Roberts in an emotional response said, “I have let you down.”
He continued by sighting his own experiences in college, dealing with race at a majority white school. He showed regret for not doing more in the time he has been an administrator at Daemen.
Speaking to the students expressed lack of representation he said, “my perception was wrong.”
During his response, he was visibly overcome with feeling adding, “I apologize for being emotional.”
Kim Pagano began her apology by citing the previous SGA meeting, and saying “I think it was quite obvious, I was unprepared.”
She stated, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity, I do hope I can repair that damage.”
At this point, SGA Vice President Ricardo Marquez and current candidate for SGA president asked the administrators to put “it (apologies) in writing.”
Greg Nayor affirmed Ricardo’s request.
Later that evening, Dr. Nayor wrote an email acknowledging the apologies during the open forum, citing the short comings of faculty and committing to positive change.
The email was sent to “Student Announcements” and did not appear to include any faculty members.
Alvin Roberts and Kim Pagano both wrote emails that accompanied Dr. Nayor’s remarks, and reiterated their own statements from the open forum. These emails were also addressed to “Student Announcements.”
Overall, administration responded thoroughly to the student body in words and in writing. The forum was open, but there was not a visible presence among professors or other faculty.
2.) Students have questions
Students on campus are not happy with the environment at Daemen, and thus SGA made a few pointed criticisms.
Vice President of SGA Ricardo Marquez said that he used the day’s leading up to the forum to talk to “as many students” as he could before SGA Compiled a list of the most trying concerns among the student body.
The student concerns listed on the agenda and addressed at the forum included.
Why are we not informed when minority authority is leaving the school?
What was the decision making process in hiring the new dean of students?
Why is the President of Daemen College not more involved with the student body?
Why is Daemen College more concerned with their image than their students?
3.) The President was called out
In the midst of Dr. Nayor’s question and answer exchange with students, Daemen student Iris Atherley remarked “why isn’t the president talking.”
She continued, “(For) a lot of people here, this is the first time seeing you” (The president was seated to the right of the podium beside Daemen administrators).
The comment elicited a few cheers and some applause from students in attendance.
She continued at the President, “We don’t know you, we don’t know who you are.”
Dr. Nayor responded by saying that the president maintains “off campus duties” that supplement his role on campus.
At this point, the President took to the podium to respond to the remarks and field questions.
He started by thanking the student government “for holding this (open forum).”
Furthermore, he said that the forum was “eye opening” and that “until today, I have been bragging about how far we have come.”
He continued, “we have an awful long way to go, that I didn’t know.”
President Olson defended his perceived absence by stating that he has a responsibility off campus to “find donors.”
President Olson exclaimed, “When I got here, there was not technology in every room”
He made the argument that the money he had garnered off campus through donations has contributed to the implementation of more technological resources across campus.
Students continued to call out, criticizing what they call a lack of a presence on campus.
One student said “You don’t have a relationship with any of us.”
The president responded, “but I am here, I am here a lot. Adding, “I’m more than happy to do an open forum here”
One student said,
“We think Greg Nayor is the President of this campus”
The president listed some of the actions he has taken to show his presence on campus. This included, “presidential letters” a recent luncheon with the volleyball team, and the state of the school speech.
4.) Springfest Is a benchmark
Dr. Nayor said during his remarks, “We have to start at Springfest.”
Telena Smith a member of student government said to the president, “We would like to see you there (Springfest).”
It is clear that expectations are high for both the student body and administration with regard to Springfest.
5.) Daemen cannot afford this issue
Greg Nayor remarked that “we’ve had a tough couple of years in terms of enrollment.”
Daemen has seen a decline since the passage of the Excelsior Scholarship, that made public college tuition more affordable and even free to students who met specific criteria.
As a result, Daemen has increased tuition rates and has tightened their belt on expenses across the campus.
With increased student pressure, it will be interesting to see if Daemen decides to cut loose and invest money now to address student needs or continue a more conservative spending approach.
6.) Faculty Accepts Responsibility
Students took some responsibility during the meeting acknowledging that sometimes their issues go unaddressed because they don’t speak up.
However, administration accepted more of the responsibility for a lack of considering the student’s needs on campus.
Both sides agreed that better communications is a necessary component for change to take place. This amounted to a discussion about administration suggesting that they need to come to the students more instead of simply waiting on the students to come to them.
Is change being made?
There has been an eagerness by administration and students to carry the momentum from the forum and turn it into real action.
To this point, students have been heavily involved in the planning of Springfest.
Student Government Vice President Ricardo Marquez has thanked Dr. Nayor “for negotiating to get an artist and working with SGA and CAT to make this happen (Springfest artist).”
President Olson has been seen on the Daemen College Instagram “story” answering questions about himself and the college.
Administration has set up an event entitled “Pizza with the President” designed to give students an “opportunity for real interaction and dialogue” with administration.
Overall, students have acknowledged a more motivated presence directed from administration to facilitate some of the changes that students have asked for.
Are these changes part of a temporary response or will they contribute to a permanent commitment of partnership between Daemen College administrators and the student body?
The answer to this question will yield great significance to the future of this institution.