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President Peña Remains Despite No-Confidence Vote

By: Jennifer Ward and Arlenis Marmolejos


Purchase College President Milagros Peña. (Photo via Westchester Magazine)


On June 18, Purchase President Milagros Peña announced in a campus-wide statement her return for the 2024-2025 academic year, committing to work with the campus community.


“Over the last couple of weeks, I have taken time to reflect on recent campus events and on our past year,” wrote Peña in the campus-wide email. “I want to take this moment to fully acknowledge that the events of this year and the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and its impact on our Jewish and Palestinian students, faculty, and staff here on campus, have been a painful time for our community.” 



The vote of no confidence comes in response to the violent police raid of a peaceful protest on May 2, which led to 68 confirmed arrests, including five faculty members. 


Since the result of the faculty’s no-confidence resolution, the student body has been vocal about opinions on the matter. Many students call for not only accountability from the administration but also for Peña to step down. 


“Our administration must take accountability! Step down and make way for new leadership,” wrote Harley Colletti, a senior global studies major in a statement to The Phoenix. “The time is now…stand with our faculty, stand with the teachers who got arrested with you, and demand Milly steps down.” 


On June 5, the Purchase Student Government Association (PSGA) opened up a poll for students to voice their opinions on the no-confidence vote. The poll still remains open. 


According to PSGA President Me’ilani Nelson, the PSGA poll is being conducted in order to gauge the campus community’s opinions on Peña’s leadership, and to show to the administration, as well as SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr., where the faculty, staff, and student body stand. 


King did not respond to The Phoenix’s inquiry for comment in a timely manner. 


“I appreciate that student government is trying to represent the opinions of the student body,” wrote Peña in a statement to The Phoenix. “I look forward to speaking with PSGA representatives about student concerns once they have finished conducting the survey and analyzing the results.”


The Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Patty Bice, encourages students to express their views on college matters through the PSGA. “I’m sure President Peña, as well as other campus leaders, including myself, look forward to a discussion of the poll results to foster communication and growth moving forward,” wrote Bice in a statement to The Phoenix.


“The students don’t realize it, but they have a lot of pull at this school when we band together and get a consensus,” said Nelson. 


Some students have expressed that not only do they not have faith in Peña’s leadership, but that they do not feel safe on campus with her as acting President.


“[Peña] needs to be removed purely for the sake of campus safety,” wrote James Louis, a junior playwriting and screenwriting major in a statement to The Phoenix. “Students will forever remain on edge and uncomfortable as long as she is the one governing the campus, knowing the way in which she responds to peaceful demonstrations should students feel that they’re necessary. The memory of students and faculty being brutalized and arrested by campus police sent by her should never be forgotten.” 


I, like all of you, care deeply about the campus community,” wrote Peña in the campus-wide email. “In my role, I have to make very difficult decisions on behalf of the campus based on the information available to me at that moment. Every decision I make is with the sincere desire to prioritize the safety, security, and well-being of all of our campus community members.”


Peña’s most recent statement left some members of the Purchase community conflicted, as her statement did not acknowledge her calling the police on the peaceful student protest on May 2. 


“President Peña’s recent letter to the campus community must be weighed against her past actions and correspondence, which contributed to chilled speech, fear, and uncertainty,” wrote Shaka McGlotten, a professor of media studies and one of the faculty members arrested on May 2, in a statement to The Phoenix. 


McGlotten also stated that at one of the last faculty at large meetings, Peña would not affirm that she had done all in her power to dismiss the charges from May 2.


“While dialogue and compassion are important, genuine accountability, concrete actions, and a willingness to accept the consequences of poor decisions are necessary for our community to heal and move forward,” wrote McGlotten. “I am committed to these processes and know that many others are as well. However, we cannot heal without acknowledging the real harms done.” 


The Professional Staff Council conducted a survey to assess 124 staff members’ stance on the faculty’s no-confidence resolution. On June 7, the results revealed that 55 staff members supported the resolution, with 41 opposing it and an additional 28 indicating partial support. This totaled 83 staff members either fully or partially in favor of the resolution.


The campus entry pavilion and Center for Media, Film, and Theatre Building. (Photo via Homes website)


Despite the vote of no confidence in Peña, not all members of the Purchase community share this sentiment. The Chair of the Purchase College Council, Dennis Glazer, voiced dissent over the decision stating that he felt the Faculty Presiding Officer, Andrew Salomon, and his faculty colleagues were “mistaken about President Peña and her leadership.”


Glazer also voiced that the arrests of May 2 came after “students and others decided to resist the repeated instructions of Campus Security Officers and other law enforcement agencies to disperse.”


“We on the College Council encourage continued dialogue and thoughtful discussion among all campus community members, both about the things we agree on and the things we disagree on,” wrote Glazer in a statement to The Phoenix. “And, in any event, we hope that going forward our campus will be the caring and welcoming educational institution we all want it be where everyone, no matter who they are or what their views are, feels respected, safe, and supported.”


“The faculty appreciates President Peña’s desire to reset and reframe communication on the Purchase College campus, and to have a living and learning community where we can engage actively, respectfully, and peacefully in discussion and debate over the most vital issues of the day,” wrote Salomon in a statement to The Phoenix on behalf of the faculty at large. “However, no reset/reframing can happen without President Peña and other members of Cabinet admitting wrongdoing and taking full responsibility for their actions of May 2, when peaceful protesters, seated and silent, posing no threat to anyone or anything, were arrested 20 minutes after the start of quiet hours. The ensuing arrests, some of them violent, of observing students and faculty, brought further shame to the administration.”


“The actions of May 2 were a breach of trust never before seen at Purchase College,” continued Salomon. “Until that breach is accounted for, until honest and substantial amends are made, it is difficult to believe anything from the administration. There is no information in President Peña’s statement of June 18 that would change the minds of any faculty member who voted no-confidence on May 29.”


Peña voiced in her statement that she will not shy away from difficult conversations this upcoming school year and that she pledges to lead with respect and compassion. 


“[Peña’s] empty words shouldn’t sway the student body. President Peña has proven time and time again that she does not care about the student body,” wrote Dési Rivera, a theater major in a statement to The Phoenix. “[She] shouldn’t be allowed to remain President on this campus for her multitude of failures.”  


“This campus is important to all of us,” wrote Peña in the campus-wide email, “and I will ensure it provides a safe educational environment for all of us while holding to our cherished first amendment rights.” 


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