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Students Protest SUNY Plattsburgh Administration Following Racist Social Media Post

Hawkins Hall on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus hosts the office of the campus president
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Hawkins Hall on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus hosts the office of the campus president

A racist Snapchat post shared with the SUNY Plattsburgh campus at large has led to student rallies and two votes of no confidence against members of the college administration.
The uproar on the northern New York campus began when a screenshot of a social media post that mentioned lynching and used the n-word was reposted to get the administration’s attention.  The original post in January went unnoticed until the February 14th repost.
Student activist sophomore Latay Moultrie explains what happened.  “The way Snapchat works is that it's posted on a public feed that your friends can see but instead she sent it as a direct message to a group of her friends. So the friend screenshoted the post and then decided to hold it for a month. I'm not quite sure why she decided to hold it and didn’t  expose it to the public earlier. But she held it and then exposed as of last week.”

Last Friday students protested in front of the Student Center. Several student forums have also been held. On Monday, the Student Association’s executive board passed a vote of no confidence in college President John Ettling and Chief Diversity Officer J.W. Wiley. Tuesday afternoon faculty met and discussed a possible vote of no confidence.
Moultrie says the administration has not been providing enough information about the situation.  “As far as the administration goes the way in which they reacted was pretty speedy. But I feel like we weren't getting direct results as quickly as we wanted to get direct results because it questioned our safety. And once you begin to question our safety that's when proper measurements need to be taken as soon as possible and we need to be aware of these things as well.”

President Ettling was unavailable for comment Wednesday.  College spokesman Ken Knelly says Ettling was taken aback by the votes. “The president has indicated that he was humbled and surprised by the no confidence vote from the students and he is going to work to regain their confidence in him and continue to work forward on these matters.”

Moultrie says students want the person who made the post expelled.  Knelly explains campus police have investigated.  While the campus newspaper, Cardinal Points, has identified the freshman who made the original post, Knelly says the administration cannot confirm the student’s identity.  “Because of federal law and individual student records we can't talk about particular aspects. I can tell you that the student who made the original post is not a student at the college now.”
Bradley:  “Now. Was she at the time?”
Knelly:  “Yes.”

Moultrie says the incident reflects the need for the campus to broaden diversity in its leadership.  “Administration should be diverse. Faculty should be diverse. Staff should be diverse. These are the places where we need diversity. How are we going to create rules or implement change if people who have a large say-so on things don't reflect those who have the problem? So where it really matters is not really diverse.”

The president’s office is working on “action points” to move forward to address student concerns.

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