The recent incident between St. Cloud State students and John Fillah, known as the “St. Cloud Superman,” brought ongoing conversation to the recent Student Government meetings.
The conversation started last Thursday, Oct. 15., after the members of the Department of Campus Involvement (DCI) presented their mission and involvement with the campus community.
Starting the meeting, the Director of the Department of Campus Involvement, Jessica Ostman, came to the podium to highlight data surrounding the department’s work on campus.
“Our mission is to engage students in transformational experiences that impact individual and community success,” Ostman said. The department puts on over 250 events throughout the year. Last year, over 50,000 people attended DCI events.
The director stepped aside from the podium, making way for the staff that accompanied her. One by one, representatives from the six programs under the DCI introduced themselves. Afterward, each representative presented findings and updates about their programs.
After introductions, Ashley Mitchell, program adviser graduate assistant for civic engagement, stayed close to the podium to present first. Mitchell talked about their focused efforts on volunteer work.
“Our goal is to build strong relationships with the community,” Mitchell said. With over one million volunteer hours logged a year, she said that 67 percent of St. Cloud State students report that they volunteer.
Relating to volunteer hours, Assistant Director of Greek Life and Student Organizations, Sami Bosacki said that 71 percent of St. Cloud State students are involved on campus.
“That’s still a big chunk who aren’t involved,” she said, explaining that the department has brought in a way to help students looking to get involved.
The Husky Involvement Guide is a way for the department to interact with students who want to get involved on campus, giving them information and resources about student organizations, she explained.
With the guide, the recently implemented Collegiate Link is designed to help students keep record of their involvement on campus in one place, she said.
The link gives students access to information about each student organization. Bosacki said the content management system has over 4,400 users, the most the department has seen so far.
After each program representative went through their presentation, Tammy McGee, vice president for Finance and Administration, came to the stand, re-introducing Jesse Cashman, assistant vice president of Safety and Risk Management, and Kevin Whitlock, director of Public Safety.
Cashman and Whitlock, having talked to the student government body in late September, said they wanted to use the time for a conversation about the visitation from Fillah, the shooting in Oregon and the university’s safety procedures.
The conversation started with the university procedures in the event of an active shooter.
Cashman explained that Public Safety staff has trained with the St. Cloud Police Department, so they have an understanding of what’s expected in active threat situations. Local police have also been able to use campus buildings for training, Cashman said.
He explained that they’re actively practicing emergency responses and planning exercises with local authorities. The practices already scheduled were planned before the Oregon shootings, he said.
Public Safety’s primary roles in the event of an active shooter are relaying information through the Star Alert system, and to help students get out of any “hot zones,” a term Public Safety uses for areas with an active threat, Whitlock explained.
President Summer Vogl said that during one of student government’s executive meetings, they talked about student preparedness in the case of an active shooter.
“I’m not sure very many students feel prepared if they’re sitting in an auditorium, what do they do,” Vogl said to Cashman and Whitlock. Other members of student government, including Senator Madison Winterquist, had similar comments, bringing up St. Cloud State staff preparedness.
Regarding faculty and staff emergency preparedness, Whitlock said, “I would challenge you to go back to your instructor and professors and pose that question to them…to have that discussion.”
The conversation continued into the incident involving John Fillah.
Whitlock explained that he doesn’t believe Fillah to be a threat to campus, and that the university has “checks and balances in place if he arrives.”
“We’re on top of it when he arrives,” Whitlock said. He explained that while being “understanding of the rights and privileges of all Americans of freedom of speech…we recognize, too, that he’s causing a disruption.”
The director went on to explain that any students that feels threatened by Fillah can go to Public Safety to document their experiences.
“We need that information so we can take that to the senior attorney and present that information to a judge,” he said.
Regarding the incident itself, Whitlock supported the way Public Safety officers handled the situation, saying they used de-escalation tactics to bring the tension down.
“We want to allow students to have these conversations with this man, to let him know how they felt,” Whitlock said.
The university has a trespass order, preventing John Fillah from being able to come onto campus, Cashman explain.
When Fillah came onto campus, he was on a city street and sidewalk. The university is pursuing a harassment restraining order against Fillah, Cashman said.
The conversation continued past 6:30 p.m. last Thursday evening, picking up again during Thursday’s, Oct. 22, meeting with an address by President Earl H. Potter, III.
The meeting began on a lighter note, having featured food catered presented by Executive Chef Renee Yarshon of the Wycombe Abbey boarding school in the United Kingdom.
The Cascade Room was filled with white-clothed tables, decorated with candles set and a line of tables featuring an array of food prepared by the chef.
Yarshon, who’s worked for Sodexo for 20 years, came to Minnesota because of an American chef tour she’s been on for the last four weeks. Having been to many regions of the country, including Texas and Colorado, she had her last stop in Minnesota before leaving Saturday.
After people had the chance to eat, the meeting started around 5:30 p.m. with Potter taking the stand.
“We cannot allow one of our own to be hurt without a response,” he said.
“The Unity Walk was an affirmative response to his performance,” Potter continued. “I would characterize his behavior as an assault to our community.”
The president said that Fillah knows the law fairly well, explaining, too, that hate speech doesn’t have a specific set of words.
“He doesn’t cross the line, between speech that is protected and speech that is illegal,” he said.
President Potter spoke to the student government body about incident with John Fillah, saying that the university is looking for additional measures to take with the trespass order.
“He has not behaved in a way for us to stop him,” he said.
Potter finished his address about Fillah, offering to answer questions the student government body had before moving onto his next topics.
No questions were raised at that time, leaving Potter to move onto Charting the Future.
The work plan has been published, Potter said, and a forum is scheduled for early November to discuss six items, that Potter didn’t mention specifically.
Potter brought up the university’s budget next, explaining that with about $7 million in cuts, the budget is balanced. However, the reserves are low.
This year, Potter said the university plans to make additional cuts to meet system requirements to help bring the reserve fund up to 20 percent of operational expenses. St. Cloud State is at 11 percent, he said.
The plan is to spread the cuts over the next five years, starting this year, he said.
With the budget cuts, Potter explained that next year St. Cloud State has a $6 million gap to close. He said some of the gap will be closed by new programs and revenues. The rest will come from reductions, he said.
“I think with a $140 million general fund…I believe we can do that work, while protect our commitment to students and the student experience,” Potter said. “But, we’re going to have to make some tough choices.”
Beginning to wrap up his address, Potter said he feels confident moving forward, mentioning the total head count for this fall is slightly up. Potter then opened the floor up to questions.
Members of the student government body followed up on some of the topics President Potter talked about. Open gallery ended after Potter followed up with the students’ questions. The meeting then moved into financial hearings.
There were three requests. The first request came from Helping Nepal International for food, decorations and technical assistance for an upcoming culture night. The Senate Finance Committee (SFC) and Student Government approved the $2,200 request.
Normally, since Helping Nepal International isn’t seen as a cultural organization under the SFC’s policies, this request would’ve been turned down. However, the committee is reworking their policies to better accommodate student organizations with a cultural emphasis, according to Finance Chair Hailey Krantz.
Student Government and the SFC approved the second and third requests. Delta Sigma Phi requested $350 for a speaker they’re hosting, and the Husky Bass Fishing Club requested to be reimbursed for fuel, given the university’s vehicles aren’t capable of hauling boats, according to Krantz. The request was for $220.