This past weekend, myself along with 5 other FIT Student Government Association representatives attended the SUNY Student Assembly Fall Conference in Albany, New York. For those who are unfamiliar with the system, the SUNY Student Assembly is an organization comprised of student leaders elected by their peers from across SUNY’s 64 campuses. The Student Assembly is the unified voice for over 600,000 students attending the State University of New York system. The conference is split in various segments – business meetings, learning workshops, and speaker presentations. Representing FIT as Voting Delegates in the 2 day long business meeting was myself (Vice President), Sonne Bajwa (President), and Molly Dunbar (Director of Student Advocacy). Here, we were exposed to resolutions brought forth from other SUNY system students. At this conference, the resolutions that were presented were:
- Required Water Quality Testing, wherein the action requested is That the Board of Trustees of The State University of New York adopt water quality testing requirements for State Operated Campuses similar to the Lead and Copper Rule of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
- Shared Governance of Community College Auxiliary Services Corporations, wherein the action requested is that the respective boards of trustees of the thirty community colleges of The State University of New York adopt a policy similar to “Auxiliary Services Corporations Guidelines” as adopted by the SUNY Board of Trustees to ensure shared governance and the inclusion of diverse student voices in the governance of auxiliary service corporations including those which provide student housing affiliated with the respective college.
- Maintenance of Effort, wherein the action requested is that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to sign amendment to education law S.1596-A/A.934-A “Maintenance of Effort.” Maintenance of Effort, as assured under the NY-SUNY 2020 plan, pledged that the State of New York would pay for the contractual and mandatory operating expenses of The State University of New York and its member campuses while tuition increases capped at $200 per undergraduate per year would be used to pay for support services for students.
After much debate and many discussions, the Legislative Agenda and all resolutions were passed. It is now the job of the SUNY Student Assembly Executive Committee to bring forth these resolutions to legislators.
While we were in the business meeting, Ryan Donohue (Treasurer), Sara Ayobi (Treasurer), and Robert Allen (Coordinator of Commuter Affairs) attended workshops that gave them new knowledge and helped enhance their skills for their positions. Additionally, we were all able to mingle with other schools, hear how their campuses operate, and receive suggestions on how to make our campus better.
On Friday, we heard from the new SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson. With an impressive resume in government and education, and a passion for sustainability and the environment, the Chancellor seeks to bring great, positive change to the SUNY system.
Saturday night, we heard from New York Congressman John J. Faso. Although many within the Student Assembly had conflicting viewpoints, he was happy and able to answer questions and elaborate on his viewpoints in government.
Additionally, we heard from Secretary of Education under Governor Cuomo, Daniel Fuller. He elaborated on new initiatives the Governor is working on regarding education. When the floor opened for questions, I asked about the Excelsior Scholarship, which provides free tuition to families with income below $125,000. New York State is quite large, and $125,000 is different on Long Island than it is upstate – what is the Governor doing to work on this disportion? Secretary Fuller replied that Excelsior Scholarship is merely a stepping stone towards providing scholarships to more students.
Overall, the conference was a great success. The work that goes into improving the system today, betters the students of tomorrow. Be the change that you want to see!
– Joanna Mingo, Vice President