Hilbert students protest, petition for changes on campus

Local News

Dozens of Hilbert students gathered on the quad Monday to protest how a recent on-campus threat was handled. 

According to college administrators, Campus Safety was made aware of a rumor of a gun on campus last Sunday night; no gun was ever found, but 19-year-old freshman Breandan Mantz was arrested after a martial arts throwing star was found in his dorm room. 

Hilbert administrators told News 4 Friday the third hand rumor of a gun on campus turned out to not be credible; students were not notified of the incident until Wednesday. 

Senior Gabriel Esparza spoke at Monday’s student rally.

He said he’s angry he didn’t learn about the possible threat until three days after Campus Safety received a complaint. 

The notification went out via the school’s Blackboard site as opposed to a texting service used for emergencies. Many students felt something as serious as a possible threat should have been treated more like an emergency. 

Elizabeth Pasente is a junior. She told us students have complained about Mantz’s behavior before. 

“Students were voicing their concerns that we didn’t feel safe on campus… it seemed as if nothing was being done,” she said. 

Due to federal regulations that protect student privacy, Hilbert administrators could not tell me whether or not Mantz had previously interactions with Campus Safety or if he had complaints filed against him. 

Mantz, who has Autism, made bail Friday. Both he and his mother spoke exclusively with News 4, and said this was all a misunderstanding based on how Mantz interacts with people. 

The 19-year-old’s fellow students feel differently.

According to Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, Mantz allegedly had a hit list, something the freshman denies. 

He is charged with two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon and Menacing, for alleged threats made against a particular student. 

Monday, Hilbert’s President Cynthia Zane said in hindsight, waiting to inform students about the threat was a mistake. 

“The messages that went out to faculty and staff earlier last week were not shared with the students initially. And that’s just something that in retrospect we should have done it in a different way.”

Zane would not comment on who specifically from Campus Safety responded Sunday night, nor would she go into what kind of training they had. 

Campus Safety officers are not armed as a matter of Hilbert policy. 

Almost 100 students signed a petition Monday, demanding more transparency in how future threats are handled. 

Zane said she plans to meet with student leaders later in the week, and said additional policy changes are possible. 

Hilbert administrators sent out several policy changes ahead of the protest Monday. They include:

  • Hilbert updated its communication procedure and in the event of a perceived threat, students, faculty, staff, and parents will be notified simultaneously.
  • Student representatives will continue to participate on the Campus Safety Committee, which meets throughout the year.
  • Plans are underway to initiate additional training for faculty, student services staff, and athletics staff before the start of the next academic year.
  • Hilbert administration will continue to support law enforcement and work collaboratively with the Town of Hamburg Police Department. Campus Safety will work with the Hamburg police to maintain vigilance on campus.
  • Officials will continue a formal review of the college’s emergency management plan for other areas where improvements are possible.

Students also told News 4 more attention needs to be paid bullying on-campus. Those who know Mantz said he was both a perpetrator and a victim of bullying. 

It is unclear if the freshman will be returning to Hilbert College. 

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