Hilltops
Hartwick College's Student Newspaper

The View From Oyaron Hill

The Jager Story Explained

03.01.16


Charlie Feher-Peiker


In recent weeks, Hartwick College students have rallied around fellow student, Noah Jager, 22, whose name appeared on posters, name-tags and whose name has been circulated on social media through a series of hash-tags associated with a student protest that took place in Dewar Union.


Jager, who was interrogated by Hartwick’s Director of Campus Safety, Tom Kelly and a State Police investigator, was forced to resign from his student leadership positions as well as being threatened with a charge of harassment, for sending an anonymous email to members of Hartwick’s Board of Trustees regarding student concerns about the administration, an email from Hartwick’s Dean of Student Life, Tara Loewenguth said.


In response to the Administration’s actions, the hash-tags #savenoah, #hellomynameisnoah, #iamtheliberalarts, and #hartwickunited have begun circulating. Students and faculty have come together in support of Jager and organized a protest outside of a Trustee Board meeting on Friday, February 19.


According to a statement from organizers, a group of students known as “Hartwick United,” the protest was intended to express dissatisfaction with the Administration and the Board of Trustees, and also to express frustration over the school’s lack of transparency, and the Administration’s treatment of those who have spoken out and who have allegedly been threatened for it or otherwise silenced.


During the fall semester Hartwick’s Student Senate organized “Hawks Talk” on November 21, 2015 to give students an opportunity to voice concerns about the management of the College and to express frustrations that the needs of students were not being listened to. Following the event, the statements of all of the students who spoke at “Hawks Talk” were compiled into a single document titled “Hawks Talk Points,” which was sent out to all students two weeks after the event, on December 4.


Two days before, on December 2, the Hartwick Board of Trustees received an email from an anonymous author with the “Hawks Talk Points” document attached. The email requested that the Board take into greater consideration the concerns of students and that they read the compiled student grievances from the “Hawks Talk“ forum.


“You might have overlooked this email, but for those who haven’t, I plead that you do not,” the email said, “know that many of these issues have stemmed from the dissent, disapproval and fear that the President of Our College has created during her eight years at this school.”


In response, board members demanded that the anonymous whistle-blower identify themselves, or that the sender desist immediately.


“Not interested in anything that comes from an anonymous source,” Trustee Keith Granet wrote, “take me off your email chain.”


“The board operates within a governance structure that requires transparency.” Another trustee, Tom Johnstone wrote, “Anonymous communications lack that same foundation. Please remove me from your email list or alternatively, identify yourself.”

These dismissals of the anonymous report, according to Kelly, were then followed by a request from Trustee Board Chairman Francis Landrey that Hartwick involve the police and conduct an investigation to uncover the identity of the unknown author, citing a single line at the end of the anonymous email: “Sometimes the forest must burn in order to grow. Change starts now.”


“Trustees said they felt threatened by it,” Kelly stated, referring to the closing lines of the email.

Weeks later, on December 24, a subpoena was issued by the Otsego County District Attorney, John Muehl demanding that Yahoo turn over all information contained within the email address [email protected], to the District Attorney’s office before January 11.


According to the Subpoena, an investigation into a suspected felony was being conducted by the District Attorney’s office and the Otsego County Jury, and it was required that all information about the email account be turned over to the District Attorney’s office. The information demanded by the subpoena included information regarding the identity of the user, the person’s phone number used to set up the email, the address of the person, and all IP addresses associated with the account.


Once the information was turned over to the District Attorney’s office, the phone number used to set up the email led investigators to the anonymous author’s identity, Kelly said. Once the phone number was released, it was revealed that it was Jager, then Student Life Coordinator, a Member of Student Senate and a member of the 2016 Commencement Committee, who had authored the email and created the anonymous email account.


That following week, on January 20, Jager suffered a concussion while snowboarding, which rendered him unable to attend classes, and a notice informing the college of his condition was sent out the following day by the director of Perrella Health Center, Amy Gardener.


“The student has been instructed not to attend class or participate in any course work,” Gardner’s notice said, “He has also been advised to abstain from any physical activity.”


Jager had been told not to do anything strenuous until at the earliest, January 29 according to the notice. But January 27 he was told to meet with Kelly in his office at 1:15 in the afternoon.


Kelly has declined Hilltops’ request to comment on this meeting, but an email Jager received from Dean of Student Life Tara Loewenguth confirmed that Jager was interrogated about his involvement with the December 2 email, on January 27. The email also stated that a State Police Investigator was present during Kelly’s questioning.


During the interrogation, according to Loewenguth, Jager was informed that the State Police had been involved in the investigation because his email had been perceived as being a legitimate security threat and that the State Police had been involved to investigate the possibility of criminal harassment. According to Loewenguth’s email, Jager then admitted that he had been the student to send the email to the Board of Trustees.


Though Kelly did not comment on the interview with Jager, he did confirm that the Police had conducted an investigation into a suspected case of Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor, which then led the District Attorney’s office to subpoena Yahoo, and demand that it divulge the information contained within Noah Jager’s private email. According to Kelly, Chairman Landry requested the investigation when the Board of Trustees determined that the police should become involved to investigate Jager’s emails, due their perceived threatening content.


According to New York State Penal Article 240, Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree is when a person communicates with another person with the intent to harass, annoy or otherwise cause them alarm. Which is why, according to Kelly, the trustees requested that an investigation take place. But according to Loewenguth’s email to Jager regarding their meeting to discuss his consequences, Loewenguth stated that Jager never had intent to harass, alarm, or otherwise annoy.


“As we discussed,” Loewenguth wrote, “while it may not have been your intention, your communications were perceived as threatening in nature and did instill a level of concern that rose to a level that required the college to take action.”


Since Jager’s meeting with Loewenguth on February 11, according to Loewenguth’s subsequent email, Jager was never officially charged with anything and was never assigned official disciplinary sanctions for misconduct. But he was told to resign from his position as a member of Student Senate, he was removed from the 2016 Commencement Committee, he had to resign his position as Student Life Coordinator and a recommendation was sent to the Perrella Health Center that he be evaluated for mental health concerns.


The week following the protest, the Hartwick Administration reached out to students in an attempt to alleviate some of the students’ concerns. In a statement released by Dr. Meg Nowak, Vice President of Student Affairs, students were assured that the administration had taken into consideration the issues raised during the “Hawks Talk” forum and assured students that the Administration was taking steps to address them.


“We will continue to collaborate with Student Senate to improve the student experience.” Nowak wrote, “I believe that you will find that we took your comments and concerns seriously.”

All images were released by the permission of owner, Noah Jager.