For those of you unfamiliar with Hartwick College, it’s a small liberal arts school in upstate New York that has been my home for the better part of the last three years.
The past few months have shown an escalation of tension between the administration and students, faculty, and staff. Tensions started after eighteen staff members were fired with little warning at the beginning of summer 2015 amidst a budget deficit (more here). When asked about the layoffs, President Drugovich responded with,
“We're not releasing that information today because our first priority is to protect those individuals who are most directly impacted. Whenever you lose a member of a community it's very difficult. Every employee counts in our Hartwick community and they will be missed. It's hard to think that they won't be here” (You can read more here).
Despite the college president’s comments, many are critical of the layoffs.
Tension grew later after a November 2015 ‘Hawk Talk’ held by Student Senate. The Talk allowed students to voice their concerns on different matters to Senate, with no members of the faculty, staff, or administration present. Senate later presented this information to Drugovich, although they had little time to organize the concerns with a hectic upcoming break schedule. With Thanksgiving break, finals, December break, and January Term (when a lot of Hartwick students are abroad or at home for the month), Senate had very few meetings to debrief about the ‘Hawk Talk.’
The administration worked to address some of the concerns brought up by students at the November talk, but many were neglected. Some of these concerns included “dissatisfaction with college President Margaret Drugovich, frustration with how the college is run, and an overall feeling among students and faculty of a ‘lack of communication and transparency’” (from here). In response to the growing frustration of the student body, the Coordinator of Student Life, Noah Jager, sent an anonymous e-mail (which can be viewed here) to the Board of Trustees urging action be taken against Drugovich.
After an investigation conducted by local authorities exposed the identity of the sender, Jager was asked to relinquish his Senate position in addition to all other executive board positions. This has since been contested by college officials, who claim that “no student was stripped of their leadership titled as a result of contacting the Board” (from here). The letter is referenced here.
Since Jager’s decision to step down from his executive board positions, including his role as the Coordinator of Student Life, students have held a protest outside of Board of Trustees meeting (more here) with over 200 students and faculty members in attendance.
I am proud of the student body for their efforts to hold the administration accountable for their lack of transparency. I hope to see students, faculty, and staff continue to voice their concerns and ensure Hartwick remains an open and honest community.
If you are interested in reading more about what’s happening at Hartwick College, check out these articles from the on-campus newspaper Hilltops and the local paper The Daily Star.