QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) - As of early Tuesday afternoon, a change.org petition calling for the removal of a student from the SUNY Adirondack campus has 993 signatures. The reason: The student in question is a registered sex offender, and some students say they don't feel safe with him on campus.
On Sept. 8, SUNY Adirondack sent out a message to students, informing the student body that level 3 sex offender Timothy Philmon, of Glens Falls, would be attending classes on the campus. College campuses are required to alert students of the presence of offenders on campus in accordance with the Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act of 2000.
Once the news got out, it didn't take long for it to become the talking point of a group chat of current and former SUNY Adirondack students, who all quickly agreed that they weren't comfortable sharing the campus with a registered sex offender. One of them, second-year student Destiny Rose, took matters into her own hands.
"We have a daycare on campus, which is very unsettling because the kids walk around campus," said Rose, a second-year student at the college. "They walk by the cafeteria and the dorms, and (Philmon) is allowed to be in those spaces with students, and where teachers might bring their kids."
Philmon is listed as a level 3 sex offender, classified as "high risk." Offenders of that designation are required by state law to remain registered for life, unless judicially relieved of the requirement to do so. He was convicted in June of 1997 for repeated instances of sexual intercourse and contact with three underage boys, ages 12, 13 and 15. Philmon, now age 50, was sentenced to 30 to 90 months in state prison.
That daycare, the Robert L. Hutchinson Child Care Center, is only one point of concern for Rose. Early admissions students attend classes at SUNY Adirondack while still in high school. Additionally, Rose and other students have voiced discomfort with Philmon using the student fitness center in the campus dorm building.
As the petition grew, it did receive a response from SUNY Adirondack President Dr. Kristine Duffy. Her responses to the list of student concerns all come back to a simple truth: The same state law that required the campus to be notified also protects Philmon's right to seek an education there, so long as he follows the rules laid out before him.
"Of course, we take safety very seriously," Duffy said on Tuesday. "The student has complied with every requirement he had to by law. I would hope that if a student interacted with him, they would treat him the same way they would anyone else in the community."
Multiple commenters on the petition make reference to social media posts on Instagram that were believed to be cause for further concern. Philmon's Instagram account appeared to have been deactivated as of Tuesday. Other comments were left from students stating their intent to stop attending classes themselves due to feeling unsafe.
Philmon could not be reached by NEWS10 for comment.
Meanwhile, Rose says she believes that if state law allows a level 3 sex offender to attend classes on-campus, that law should change. She has asked why Philmon can't be made to take online classes, or meet with teachers to be tutored off-campus. As the petition nears 1,000 signatures - out of SUNY Adirondack's approximately 3,420 current students - she feels the conversation cannot stop here.
"Everyone deserves to feel safe. This situation is not making people feel safe," she said.
Duffy has recommended that any students with questions regarding the sex offender registry and restrictions on offenders should contact the Civil Division of the Warren County Sheriff's Office. Sgt. John Howse can be reached there at (518) 743-2500, option 3, or at CivilOffice@warrencountysheriffny.us.