Hundreds of SUNY New Paltz students demonstrate, storm administration building

Saturday, October 22, 2005

New Paltz, New York — More than 350 U.S. students took part in a demonstration Friday outside the SUNY New Paltz Student Union Building where student leaders used a bullhorn from the rooftop to rally the gathering on the concourse below. University police dispersed student leaders from the roof which was followed by more than 100 students storming the Haggerty Administration Building (HAB).

During the 2004–2005 academic year, students lobbied for a $10 million renovation project for their Student Union Building, which has not been renovated since its construction more than 30 years ago.

HAB spokesman Eric Gullickson said that the supplemental appropriation for the project is the largest in the history of the college and that the six-member advisory committee includes three students but that; “the Student Association, which was offered the first seat on this committee, declined the opportunity,” Gullickson said.

Student leaders, including Student Body President R.J. Partington III and Student Senate ChairJustin Holmes, who played a role in organizing this demonstration, testified during the Spring 2005 semester before the New York State Assembly Committee on Higher Education, eventually winning the renovation project. Holmes says that Gullickson’s assertions are; “an out-and-out lie. The SA was never offered such a seat. We were offered 1 seat on a seven seat committee, with the administration selecting the other six members.”

The major arguments for a capital project on the Student Union Building were that it:

  • did not accommodate organizations and organization office needs
  • lacked crucial technology for student mobilization
  • was built for a student population less than half the size of 2005, and
  • was one of the longest standing Student Unions in the SUNY system which had not undergone a renovation

During the Fall 2005 semester the HAB claimed that it would oversee the renovation project, citing the need for a larger lobby and bookstore.

The Kingston Daily Freeman reported:

The crystallizing issue for the demonstration was the upcoming $10 million renovation of the Student Union building. The renovation, scheduled to begin in about two years, will be the first major change to the building since it was built 34 years ago, according to college spokesman Eric Gullickson, who said the supplemental appropriation for the project in the state budget is the largest in the college’s history.

Gullickson also said that a six-member committee had been formed to guide the design process, but student leaders, including Partington, were told that the proposed committee would be seven members, including four non-students and two students who were appointed by the HAB.

“No matter the size and makeup of the HAB’s so-called renovation committee, it has nothing to do with the actual renovation process, which will be administered by a student committee, with input from other parties of course considered,” responded Holmes.

During the Fall 2005 semester, Student Body President R.J. Partington III attempted to negotiate with Administrators, including HAB President Steven G. Poskanzer, over the project.

The HAB refused to concede to student demands.

At this point, the Student Senate passed legislation proclaiming that the project would be overseen by a committee where students constitute a majority, and Partington announced that he “did not recognize and would not sit on” any committee that did not meet the needs of students.

Vice President of Acacdemic Affairs & Governance, Stephanie Adika said, “If the HAB won’t even listen to us about our own building, how are they going to listen to us about all the other problems the students have with SUNY New Paltz.”

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