SUNY students protest cuts at Common | News, Sports, Jobs – Evening Observer

Mar 2, 2024
OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford Protesters join a dance circle Friday in Fredonia during a demonstration against proposed cuts to SUNY Fredonia programs.
A couple hundred SUNY Fredonia students protested the planned elimination of 13 major programs Friday afternoon.
They started at Fenton Hall on campus and marched down Central Avenue and Temple Street to Barker Common. There, they put on a colorful, upbeat scene closer to a music festival than a protest.
The students formed a dance circle, accompanied by drummers, guitarists and a trombonist. The musicians jammed along to chants of “Fair funding for Fredonia” and “Stop the cuts.”
A large, cardboard “tree man,” as described by the student carrying it, lost its head. Other students swiftly reattached it.
Other students carried signs. “Michael C. Rockefeller Didn’t Get Eaten for This” was one – a reference to the heir of the Rockefeller family integral in founding the modern SUNY system, who went missing and was purportedly eaten by cannibals.
OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford A “tree man” has his decapitated head reattached during a demonstration Friday against planned SUNY Fredonia program cuts.
Another sign featured the cartoon cat Garfield declaring, “Eat SUNY admin 4 dinner.” A third was far less whimsical: “We’ll be less activist if you be less … .”
Underscoring the deep campus-community ties in Fredonia, one protester was heard to say she wanted to go visit her aunt, who works near the common.
After about 15 minutes of fun, it was time for several speakers to drive home protesters’ complaints.
Henry Domst of Students for Fredonia, the group which organized the protest, stated, “We’ve been working extremely hard to advocate for transparency and fair funding from our administration.”
Domst revisited what he called a “lackluster presentation” by University President Stephen Kolison announcing the cuts in December, “lacking sound explanation for anything related to proposed cuts.”
He added, “They wouldn’t release data that gave financials, there was no cost savings in what was cut.”
Domst mentioned that a Feb. 12 visit by SUNY Fredonia students to Albany to demand more funding was not included in recent reports of weekly campus highlights. “The explanation is that it goes against what SUNY wants displayed,” he said.
Fredonia Village Trustee Jon Espersen was another speaker, who said he was also representing Mayor Michael Ferguson who was out of town.
“This reminds me of the ’70s when there was a protest every week,” he said to cheers, commending students for finding a worthy cause to protest about.
“We understand the importance of the campus to the community at large,” Espersen said. “As SUNY Fredonia goes, so goes the community. The two are inexorably and eternally linked.”
He added that village officials made it a point to put in a word for more SUNY Fredonia funding at the recent New York Conference of Mayors in Albany.
A third speaker, student Jasmine Johnson, took on a strident tone. “We are here because we are angry!” she shouted. “We are tired of decisions being made without integrity… without grace.” Protesters cheered.
Johnson said SUNY Fredonia’s administration is uninterested in students or the quality of their education. “We’re not stupid…these program cuts were not made with financial data. We’ve met with the president and he won’t give us numbers.”
She urged protesters to call or write Gov. Kathy Hochul, state Legislators, and Kolison because “they need to know they can’t make decisions without facing consequences.”
A letter to Kolison for protesters to sign was also made available.
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