BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Medaille students are speaking out after it was announced Monday that the university will be closing on Aug. 31.

Xaneya Thomas, the president of Medaille’s Student Government Association and a player on the women’s basketball team expressed her frustrations to News 4’s Hope Winter on Tuesday.

“Before anything, I was definitely frustrated,” Thomas, a junior at Medaille, said. “We received the communication on Monday and news outlets had already released, from Trocaire’s press release, that they backed out of the APA agreement, so it was kind of like the students already knew what was going on before the official communication went out.”

She believes the situation was avoidable.

“It’s just unfortunate,” she said. “It’s frustrating, disappointing, and I would say it’s really irritating, knowing that there were multiple times that we could’ve avoided this situation as an institution, but unfortunately, our trustees couldn’t see that.”

Thomas said Medaille’s Board of Trustees did not fulfill their fiduciary obligations by letting the school close without early communication with the students and staff.

“This wasn’t an outcome that occurred after one year of bad decisions,” she said. “Not even two years of bad decisions. Most of the members of the Board of Trustees have sat through multiple presidents at Medaille University, so this is something that has progressed over a period of time.”

Thomas graduated high school at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which altered her senior year experience. Now, her final year of college will be affected in a similar regard, as her school prepares to close.

“My class — it’s been change after change after change,” she said. “I would definitely say my class, if anything, is resilient. I graduated online from high school because everything shut down in February for my area. Then my first year of college, we were hybrid, which was like 80% online and maybe a day or two in person.”

Dr. Nathan Daun-Barnett, a professor at the University at Buffalo and a former member of Medaille’s Board of Trustees, told News 4’s Tara Lynch that he believes the pandemic, cost of higher education, and lack of population growth in Western New York contributed to the school’s closure.

Thomas agreed that the factors Daun-Barnett listed all contributed to the school’s closure, but those factors alone led to the closure.

“If that was the case, then simply, every other higher education institution would close in Western New York as well,” she said. “What he said is factual — enrollment rates have been declining across the country, the pandemic was significant and people are still seeing residual effects of it today, but I feel like that’s a cop-out. There have been decisions made in the past that led us to this point.”

Thomas, a Binghamton native, said she chose Medaille, a school roughly 3 1/2 hours away from her hometown, because it met both her educational and athletic goals. Additionally, the university gave her the most money of any school through merit scholarship and financial aid.

“I was able to play college basketball while getting my Bachelor’s, and they also offered a three-plus-three program with the University at Buffalo School of Law,” she said.

Thomas said the benefits of her university extended beyond just schooling and athletics: she said some additional resources provided by Medaille were “extremely beneficial.”

“One thing about Medaille was that they had offered free mental health counseling on campus to all students,” she said. “I know that was extremely beneficial and was used by a significant portion of the population.”

She said she believes the mental health aspect is often forgotten about when it comes to decisions like this. Thomas said she thinks the student body is handling the situation as best as they can because “they have to handle it.”

She said she will be holding a town hall with the student body soon to gauge how they are feeling and will put out resources to help the students continue after Medaille.

As for Thomas, she said the athletic department has been “on it” when it comes to helping student athletes get in contact with other coaches and the NCAA transfer portal. She said the school itself has yet to release any resources, however. Multiple other Western New York colleges have set up teach-out options for Medaille students.

And what she’ll miss the most? The community.

“Community is one of our four pillars and it’s not one of those things that we just push or promote for the publicity, it’s truly an integral part of our campus,” she said. “I’m going to miss the community and the connections that I’ve made with faculty, staff, and administration. I feel like this year alone, faculty, staff, and students have really come together to support one another in preparation for the APA agreement with Trocaire.”

Thomas said that many people have been saying there’s not one person to blame, and she said that assessment is correct.

“We’re in this situation because of the Board of Trustees,” she said. “A lot of people say there’s not one person to blame, and they’re absolutely correct. There’s about 14 to 17 to blame.”

Thomas provided News 4 with documents showing votes of no confidence in the Board from the faculty counsel, staff counsel, and the student government, which can be viewed below.

Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.