Emotions ran high as administrators attended a packed StudentGovernment meeting to address questions regarding St. John’sUniversity President Rev. Donald J. Harrington’s comments onEyewitness News on Channel 7. Members of Student Government, Inc.plan to write a letter, requesting Harrington to meet with studentsto discuss these comments.
“I guarantee 90 percent of them are not here for budgets,”junior senator Christopher Coes said. “I don’t think StudentGovernment’s ever had a packed house!”
At the meeting, articles published by the New York Times andDaily News were distributed to attendees in an effort to clarifyHarrington’s comments. Jody Fisher, director of media relations forSt. John’s University, explained that the comments were taken outof context and that there was more to the thought than the TVcoverage showed.
“If you can replace culture with a more accurate word,” Fishersaid, “you would replace it with mentality and that’s the contextthat we felt that was lost.” Fisher also mentioned that commentsthat appeared in the articles were made in a second interview afterthe Eyewitness News clip on Channel 7 was aired.
Despite the clarifications, some feel that many questions arestill left unanswered. Patricia Ambroise, student affairsrepresentative, wants further explanation.
“I need to know, I need to be clarified,” Ambroise said, “Theonly difference I can see from the soccer team and the basketballteam is obvious.”
Many students were disappointed that Harrington was a no-show atthe meeting. According to Fisher, Harrington was not able to attendthe Student Government meeting because he was raising money forscholarships.
“Although Fr. Harrington would like to hear students’ opinions,it’s simply a matter of scheduling,” Fisher said. Fisher also saidthat when he delivers a message on Harrington’s behalf, he likes tothink that it’s coming from him.
But many disagreed. “It’s not the same,” Ambroise said, “Iunderstand he has obligations, but we are also students and withoutthe students, there is no university.”
Another student representative, Tamika Conerly, said, “Somethingthis big, why are you not here, it makes me think, ‘Do I reallywant to come to St. John’s?’ You can’t even come here. You’rerepresenting us, but you don’t even know us.”
Kimberly Torres of Student Affairs said, “I feel that theUniversity in some way is falling apart.”
However, Liz Salogub, who’s on the School Spirit Committee, saidthat she understands Harrington’s absence. “I can see where peoplecan get aggravated, and it is aggravating, but at the same time youalso have to realize that especially at this point, he’s got a loton his plate right now and maybe he couldn’t come today.”
Although Harrington’s lack of presence was debated, all membersof the Student Government agree that the students should get theanswers that they need from Harrington.
“Student Government is taking a stand,” Coes said, “[we are]Requesting the President take a stand and to make a comment to thestudents. I guess you can say we’re just getting the rockrolling.”
In addition, Student Government also agreed that, due to presentcircumstances, it is important for its members to fulfill theirduties.
“We all know the situation of this University,” StudentGovernment president Fabrice Armand said. “We all know what’s goingon with the University in terms of the basketball team. I thinkit’s a crucial time in which us, as student leaders, need to makesure that we represent our school in the proper light.”