ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) — Protestors created a scene when Gov. Mark Dayton visited St. Cloud State University Thursday.
Dozens of students and staff are upset over the recent dismissal of SCSU administrator Mahmoud Saffari. They protested at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new science research facility on campus.
On a day meant to celebrate growth at St. Cloud State University, dozens of students had a different plan.
“Hell no. We won’t go. We want Mahmoud back,” chanted student protestors.
They’re upset over the recent dismissal of administrator Saffari, who dealt with enrollment. Many students of color credit him with their decision to attend SCSU.
“I would not be at SCSU without him. He’s the one who brought me, took my hand, showed me campus and brought me here four years ago,” said Walid Issa, a senior at SCSU.
The university is offering no explanation for the firing because of data privacy laws.
“I appreciate the anger, but the fact of the matter, this law protects them and every employee at the University,” said Earl Potter, the president of SCSU.
But students are still looking for answers, and they thought the governor could help.
“They haven’t done anything to listen to us, so we feel we had to do this to listen to us. If we have to take it to any extent, we will,” said Lisa Sarclay, a student at SCSU.
To end the disruption at the groundbreaking, Gov. Dayton promised to listen to the students’ concerns after the ceremony. True to his word, he heard from a dozen students and faculty for nearly a half hour.
“We want you to understand the pain we are going through. We need a macro intervention,” said a protestor who wished to remain nameless.
Another student shared her frustrations and said the campus atmosphere has changed.
“I feel increasing racial hostility on campus. It’s not the same campus it was when I first got here,” said Veronica Mora, a California native, who moved to Minnesota to attend college.
The Governor promised to meet with leaders within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. It was enough to calm tension on campus, for now.
“That’s what I’ll promise to do and talk with them and get their suggestions on how to proceed, because it really is their responsibility. I’m not backing out of it. But that’s the reality of the situation,” Dayton said.
SCSU President Potter addressed the concerns of racial tension on campus saying it’s not widespread. He said there are students of color on campus who support the decision.
Dr. Saffari said he can’t comment on the issue right now.