BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Students at Medaille College protested Friday over a recent incident involving campus security officers.
Medaille's Student Government Association Student Programming Coordinator, Leya Slade, sent 7 News an email detailing what happened.
According to the SGA, the security officers — who are employed by Vista Security Group and are contracted to work at Medaille College and a number of other local colleges — entered a number of students' rooms around 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 13, without uniforms, masks, or knocking on the students' doors.
Medaille College President Dr. Kenneth Macur confirmed all of the details of the incident to 7 News Friday morning.
Per Medaille College's On-Campus Housing License & Residential Policies for the 2021-2022 academic year, security officers may not enter a student's room without reasonable suspicion there has been a violation of campus policy or illegal activity.
It is the College’s intention to ensure all reasonable privacy in student living quarters. However, in the interest of health, safety, and general welfare of the entire College community, the College reserves the right for authorized representatives (Residence Life Staff, Student Affairs Staff, Facilities, Public Safety, etc.) to enter and search a student’s room for housekeeping purposes, for damage inspections, for the establishment of order, for repairs or maintenance, to determine occupancy and vacancies, and in emergency situations to ensure both the safety and well-being of members of the College community. A student’s room may also be entered and searched when there is a reason to believe that a violation of College policy or a violation of local, state or federal laws is taking or has taken place. In such cases, an attempt will be made to have the student present and/or a member of the Residence Life Staff available.
Slade said the security officers seemingly entered students' rooms at random, without representatives of resident life like a resident assistant or resident director present.
To students, it was seen as random people terrorizing them. Some students were not clothed, scared, and traumatized. Since this event many students have been losing sleep, having panic attacks, and fear that their privacy will be invaded again.
The college says this type of incident has happened before and has been addressed when it happened, saying it is "highly traumatic" for students.
Slade sent 7 News a screen-grab of an email sent to the student body by the college's Office of Public Safety apologizing for the incident, saying the security officers involved have been removed from campus. The college says some of the officers were fired immediately and the remaining officers are no longer working at Medaille.
The college says it decided to outsource security to Vista Security Group at the beginning of the year.
In a separate email sent to students, college administrators said the transition to Vista began in January and the college encouraged its current public safety officers to apply for positions with Vista with the intent to keep as many on-campus as possible.
According to that email, the transition "was not smooth" and some of the current public safety officers left their positions.
Dr. Macur told 7 News that he and other administrators have met with the SGA, Vista and the campus Director of Public Safety three times between March 9 and March 23. He said in those meetings, the college agreed to every demand the SGA put forth.
The SGA plans to hold a protest by walking out of class at 12:30 p.m. Friday to call on Medaille College administrators to take further action to ensure something like this does not happen again.
Dr. Macur says the college learned about the protest late Thursday afternoon and they are not sure what the SGA's new demands are as of yet but they are prepared to agree to any new demands.
“We the students exclaim their time has run out,” shouted a student protester.
Medaille students say their rights were violated when last month campus security guards entered some dorm rooms without warning.
“Girls were walked in on while they were naked. There were people who had items taken that were allowed to have those items. There were people who were pushed,” Kristyn Clare, freshman.
It happened two times on the weekend of February 12th and 13th in one of two campus dorm buildings.
“Your rights were violated — there's no question about that,” remarked Amy DeKay, vice president, Student Development, Medaille College.
DeKay addressed students at the protest. She says public safety and a residence adviser responded to a noise complaint on February 12th and that when the public safety officer swiped into three rooms unannounced.
She says it happened again the next night when four officers entered up to 11-rooms.
“All officers involved in the situation have been removed from our campus,” stated DeKay.
Medaille contracts with Vista Security Group, the same company that serves a number of other local colleges.
College president Dr. Kenneth Macur says the officers broke the policy.
“The guidelines are clear — you're not supposed to enter a room without knocking. You’re not supposed to enter a room without cause and you should have a member of the residence life staff present as well, “ Macur explained.
I reached out to Vista for a response but says it is not issuing a statement at this time and all inquiries need to be directed to the college.
“Did they tell you why they were searching the rooms? What they were looking for — who reports what to who?” Buckley asked.
“I am not part of the process who they were reporting to. I don't know what argument they made in terms of why they were searching rooms. I do know that over the course of the day they removed a number of bottles of alcohol which is not illegal because some students are of age,” Macur responded. “We have a deep, deep deep violation of trust. We trust people to keep us safe and when we the people trust to keep us safe violate that trust. It makes it so much worse.”
270 students live on campus in two residence halls and they each pay $7,000 a semester to live on campus.
Macur met with students three times to meet all their requests, but now refused to meet with him and instead staged this protest.
“The entire incident was disturbing,” Macur stated.
As part of this protest, students are demanding that the president resign.
Macur tried to address their concerns, but students didn't give him much of a chance. he eventually walked away but stayed at the protest.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho — Dr. Macur has got to go,” students chanted.
Students say they're frustrated it took more than five weeks for the college to respond to what happened and only two officers were initially reprimanded and remained on campus. those officers were later removed, but all other officers from vista remain on campus, and on the job.
“They allowed people that allowed panic and trauma in the dorm rooms to stay on campus and continue to put that angst and issue out here,” reflected Clare.