Submitted by Haris Khan and Charlotte Oestrich
Historically, The City College of New York has been one of the freer colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY) system and the state at-large. Not only was City College the first tuition-free higher education institution, but it is also home to the first student government in the nation–– founded in 1884. This student government was founded with a mission of self-determination; it was based on the belief that students know what students need. Now, the CUNY Board of Trustees is attempting to eliminate student control over their own funding.
A special “task force” has been established by the CUNY Board of Trustees to investigate the student activity fee (SAF). The SAF generates funds for many essential campus organizations and services such as student governments, child care centers, campus media, clubs, and a multitude of others. This fee funds essential groups and services across CUNY’s campuses including health centers, shuttle bus services, and all clubs. CUNY claims this process is a review. However, there are aspects of this action which point to a complete overhaul of student life on campus. In a sense, CUNY is trying to pull the veil over the eyes of students and make decisions about funding without input from those who matter the most. This perspective poses the question: if the Board of Trustees cared about students, then wouldn’t they come to the campuses to discuss this issue with students?
Instead, by working behind closed doors, hiding the truth from students, and avoiding town halls or campus visits, the University is attempting to seize control of student activities and student fees, determining where funding goes on a “one-size-fits-all” scale. Unfortunately, we know that one-size-fits-all is more like one-size-fits-none. Each campus in the CUNY system runs differently. Yet, they all share a profound underfunding and maintain a home to some of the most resource-starved students in the state. Without any public conversation, CUNY’s Board of Trustees proposed the removal of referenda voting, an essential part of student’s self-determination where they can bring specific issues of funding to the general campus population to a vote.
The SAF was created by students, for students, and CUNY seems to be forgetting the student part of this. Instead, they are attempting to give individual college associations all the power to determine what students can be engaged with, thus removing the self-determination our Student Government was first founded with.
To combat this blatant attack on student’s rights, there will be an Emergency Student Government Town Hall meeting on March 6th on the CCNY campus to resist these proposed changes. The CUNY Board of Trustees Public Hearing, at Brooklyn College, will be held on March 12th and is the last chances we will have to save the student activity fee. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to learn more about this proposal and how we can fight for the right to self-determination!