Dan Pneuman, Columnist
I would like to join with the SUNY Oneonta President’s Council on Diversity in congratulating Dr. Trudy Thomas-Smith, a professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, for being awarded this year’s annual Tapestry in Diversity Award. I am sure it is a well-deserved honor, celebrating an issue that should always be focused upon within our campus community. This accolade is especially needed in contrast to other faculty concerns that have recently come to light (see the last issue of the State Times this past spring semester regarding Dr. Robert Barstow). I hear that a wonderful recognition ceremony was held in her honor in front of Netzer this past Wednesday the 14, including speeches by the President and honoree, and performances by Julie Licata’s wonderful and powerful World Percussion Ensemble among the diversity pillars.
Unfortunately, I cannot say that I am joining many other students in congratulating Dr. Thomas-Smith. Many students would have taken special delight in attending the ceremony or hearing about it afterward. Few students know about the presentation ceremony. In my search, all I can find is an announcement by the college in the “SUNY Oneonta News” page of the Oneonta.edu website back on September first. Students do not know about this page or actually use it. Students receive information over Campus Connections, State Times, WONY or in the weekly broadcast sent about by Bill Harcleroad. Perhaps the word could have gotten out through the Multicultural Student Council (MSC), who met with President Klenewski on issues of diversity last year and is very active this year. MSC could have advertised to multicultural student organizations, which have a special stake in issues of diversity. Nor did the administration ask the State Times to cover this event. I am sure that the news editor would have been happy to assign a reporter and photographer. In effect, my column appears to be the only medium through which the vast majority of students will read about this great honor she has received. Are these pillars representing diversity for students as well? Are we not all stakeholders in diversity on this campus?
The administration of this college seems to be talking over the students as opposed to talking to them regarding the current affairs, both positive and negative, of our college community. This includes the issue of how the surplus of $2,000,000 will be distributed. I do not speak on behalf of the State Times, but on behalf of the many concerned students on this campus. I invite the administration to find more ways and take extra effort to regularly engage students on this campus in their decision making processes.
Unfortunately, I must charge the Student Association with the same shortcoming. The Student Association is for and by the students, and should represent them. But the SA is not engaging the students it claims to represent. The only ones who are engaging the Student Association (which we pay for in student fees) are those who are senators or a part of the SA e-board, and occasionally the student organizations. While we “elect” senators and the e-board into their positions, as far as the running of SA goes, these few that attend their weekly Tuesday meetings are the only ones who know what is discussed. The SA has committees that deal with representing students to the administration, OAS, faculty, staff, alumni, the community and Sodexo. The SA also regularly invites different officials on our campus, such as the Athletics Director Tracy Raneiri or Vice President for Student Development Steve Perry, to speak and to be questioned by senators representing student concerns, but the decisions that are made and discussions that take place go unheard by the student population on campus – and therefore largely become irrelevant. Students express legitimate concerns all of the time regarding issues with academics, athletic equipment and how this college is being run, but these complaints are consistently unheard by the SA. Senators are not conversing with their constituents, and the SA e-board is making little effort to be connected with student concerns. While there is an element of apathy within students, all students cannot be expected to come to the general meeting every Tuesday night. This is why most proper leaders understand that it is necessary to regularly connect to their constituents by taking advantage of the many forums available to them, in addition to regular meetings. While many of us know what he planned to focus on as President when we voted him into office last semester, the vast majority of students will never know his progress or the SA’s progress on any of the many issues they address throughout the year. How does SA President Evan Englander plan to represent himself this year to all students? He surely cannot represent all students in SA’s current state of affairs. Perhaps the SA should regularly publish its meeting minutes to the State Times, and/or perhaps President Englander should write a column addressing topics covered at meetings. Simple efforts could be made, and have great effect.
The concerned student body, myself included, not so humbly call upon this campus’ administration and Student Association to find new avenues to regularly engage students in its decision making process. We will all be better off for it.