University Director of Public Safety Claims “Trespassing” Occurred by Anthony Viola

Students protest outside the CUNY offices following the meeting. Photo by: Anthony Viola

The City University of New York (CUNY) hosted a Board of Trustees committee meeting at its central offices on February 26. After proposing to reform Student Activities Fees (SAF) across all CUNY campuses, students rushed into the lobby to protest their concerns.

At the meeting, CUNY officials instructed public safety to redirect all attending students to a conference room on a different floor from the meeting. This decision was due to the meeting’s room being filled to capacity. The overflow room held 77 students who watched the Committee on Student Affairs and Special Programs on several screens.

Prior to the meeting’s commencement, David Tobo, President of York College’s Student Government Association (SGA), addressed the room about the meeting’s plenary. He shared that Trustee Una S. T-Clarke told him a vote would not be occurring.

Tobo also explained that he would request that the trustees visit the conference room following the meeting.

During the meeting itself, the Committee still allotted time to discuss the proposed changes. Loretta Martinez, General Counsel and Vice Chancellor of Legal Affairs, summarized the recommendations in a slideshow presentation. The full recommendations can be found on the CUNY Board of Trustee’s website.

Students in the “overflow” room commented throughout Martinez’s explanation. One student noted how Martinez could not name another club aside from “The Chess Club.”

Sebastian Uchida, City College of New York student and Chapter Organizer of Democratic Socialists of America, voiced his worries to the other students in the room. “This is borderline insulting,” he shared while Martinez spoke.

As the meeting wrapped up, Tobo asked the Committee members to speak in-person to the group of 77. Martinez changed the topic by stating the proposal is still in its drafting stages.

Several of the students felt this was a clear indicator that they were not coming to the meeting. Uchida, along with students from different CUNY schools, led the majority of the room to the 7th floor. A protest broke out in the hallway, where students began chanting “this is what democracy looks like” and “student power.”

William Barry, University Director of Public Safety, told the students they were trespassing. He stated, “there is a business going on here, you must leave.” Enraged students responded with “this business belongs to us – we are the students.”

NYPD officers remained on standby before forcing the group to disburse. Photo by: Anthony Viola

In the end, Barry threatened to have the students arrested if they didn’t exit the building. Soon after, the protest concluded in front of the office tower.

Joining them was Kawthar Abdullah, who is a senator at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She says, “Our voices weren’t taken into consideration.” She encourages any CUNY student to come and speak at the public hearing. She continues, “It’s really that serious.”

The next public hearing will take place at Brooklyn College on March 12 at 4:30PM.

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