by Hannington Di.
Photo by Eitan Negri.
The campus organization Students for Educational Rights (SER) has been trying to get the administration to respond to a list of demands for the last few weeks. The group succeeded on Thursday during its 10-hour study-in in Cohen Library to advocate for 24/7 access to the library and other facilities.
Around 6 PM, Juana Reina, CCNY’s new vice president for student affairs approached the handful of student advocates. She agreed to a meeting the following day to discuss increased library access, as well as open admissions, tuition and faculty tenure.
As promised, Reina met with a half a dozen students on Friday in the Faculty Lounge. SER called the sit down, a good start.
Below, are SER’s demands and excerpts from Reina’s responses:
Re-instate Black Studies as a Department:
While she didn’t endorse the idea, Reina noted that “it is significant we train you guys to have competencies in relating to people with different cultures. I don’t think we do enough for that area, and I will share with my colleagues that this is significant to you in a curricular sense that you would want as a requirement. But I cannot tell them what to do.”
24/7 Access to Facilities Such as the Library:
Reina was supportive of round the clock study areas, but said cost is a major roadblock. “We don’t have a lot of control of the (state) revenue,” she said. “As a result, we have to be careful with expenses. I’m not saying we cannot provide better access to study spaces, but we will put together a group of people to see how close we could get to providing this to students, while keeping expenses down.”
Make CCNY Free–Or at Least Do Not Raise Tuition
This was one of the most polarizing deliberations on the agenda. SER pointed out how President Lisa Staiano-Coico says she wants free admissions while publicly supporting the NYSUNY2020 tuition hike, questioning why she hasn’t spoken out against the controversial law. Reina responded that she’d gone to the state capitol with administrators to meet with elected officials on the matter, but assured that “we can share with the president what [officials] said” about tuition.
Make CCNY’s Admissions Open:
Reina has a different take on open admissions. She advocates allowing students access to CUNY’s elder campuses after taking remedial courses at the junior level. “We have a responsibility to help students get valuable work skills,” she said. “What we’ve done is that if you need preparatory skills, gain those at our community colleges and once you meet the minimum level, then you can come to one of the senior colleges.” SER member Shaila Bora countered that this method only gives “two years of what students should have as a four-year education. These classes are inferior and bigger.”
Increase Club Space–and Allow Students to Control It:
Reina offered some promising information about student-run spaces. “Our Student Life Office has already been advocating on your behalf,” she said. “I’ve asked someone in my office to go around and look at what we need for space. The President has also asked me to look at student space for clubs. We’re trying to find a solution for that.”
As the meeting drew to a close, SER’s members agreed to continue discussing ways to improve campus life with Student Affairs and the faculty senate. They also concluded that a meeting with President Lisa in person was necessary to navigate open admission and tuition concerns. “It seems like [Reina] is willing to work with us,” said SER’s Shaila Bora following the meeting. “But this is just the first step in a long journey.”