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Fenner House presentation cancelled

A presentation on the Fenner House scheduled for Thursday is not going to happen.

Event organizer Mark Twichell wanted it to take place as part of SUNY Fredonia’s Civic Engagement Night, set for 7 to 9 p.m. that evening at the Williams Center. The college’s press release on the night states, “Representatives from a variety of campus and community groups will be available to share information and answer questions on issues ranging from public health and environmental sustainability to voter registration and turnout.”

Twichell told the OBSERVER he thought he had approval for the event — only to see it snatched away.

“Apparently what had happened is that the college’s online registration procedure allowed us to enter our presentation without going through what is the proper vetting procedure,” he said. “When I submitted it, it got returned to me as marked ‘approved.’ I had no knowledge it didn’t go through another procedure I wasn’t aware of.”

Twichell said he did not realize that Civic Engagement Night has its own oversight committee.

“Apparently there is a committee … and they either invite groups to attend or provide an entry form that this committee is directly responsible for vetting,” he said. Because Twichell didn’t work through this committee, he won’t get to make his presentation, he said.

“Honestly, the online registration procedure made no mention of a vetting committee or any other way of replying. I thought we were complying with all the rules and regulations,” he added.

Math professor Julia Wilson, one of the organizers of Civic Engagement Night, took issue with Twichell’s characterization of the event as canceled by the college.

“The impression that it was approved was due to a misunderstanding of the nature of the (college’s online) events calendar. Nothing has been canceled by the college,” she wrote in comments posted to the “Save the Fenner House” Facebook page, which Twichell runs. “We did not receive a submission for the event from this organization, and at this point the event is full.

“Personally, I am sympathetic to the cause of saving Fenner House, but publicly mischaracterizing the nature of Civic Engagement Night and the actions of the organizers is not fair,” she added.

Jeff Woodard, SUNY Fredonia’s director of marketing and communications, had a similar explanation in a comment emailed to the OBSERVER. “An electronic submission was erroneously approved, and shortly after removed from the campus events calendar,” he wrote.

Twichell said Wilson wanted him to entirely delete his original Facebook posting announcing Thursday’s event, along with their exchange, but he will not do so.

Twichell still wants to hold his presentation, but is now unsure when and where it will happen.

“It won’t happen this week. I’m not sure when the next Civic Engagement Night is,” he said. “I have not received any confirmation from the college’s spokesperson that we are eligible to reapply.”

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