SA and Administration Do Little To Represent Students

Dan Pneuman, Columnist

The administration and Student Association need to understand that the issues raised in this paper and during the “Occupy the Quad” are not the act of a few radical students attempting to manipulate the dialogue of the campus against them. It is the result of the growing salience of frustration throughout general student opinions on this campus. Students have largely supported many of the articles that are critical of the goings-on of campus before they are brought to the attention of the paper.
Regarding my column, I do not write without first gauging student opinion, so I know that I am not the only one with this mindset. The occupation of the quad is only the first of many expressions to come by students who are deeply concerned and frustrated with issues on this campus. For example, issues and information regarding how the administration directs the spending of student and state money have been raised by The State Times—but the administration does not respond. Why? Shouldn’t a tactic be to preempt growing frustration with the administration rather than letting student opinions fester and boil until a protest occurs? Another example is the large number of students who have “slum landlords.” I commend the Student Association for hosting a program geared toward students thinking of moving off campus, but many students that are currently suffering and being taken advantage of by their landlords do not know how to engage the Student Association as a resource to represent them—addressed in the last issue of The State Times. Should the SA not proactively engage an issue that has been brought to their attention in the paper by reaching out to these many suffering students? These are but two of the many examples which both Administrations and the SA seem to be ignoring.
Since my last column, I have been following their progress online at their website and on Campus Connections. They have published their agendas on Campus Connections and currently state on their website “Coming soon: Committee contact lists and committee minutes to inform you about what we’re doing to represent you at SUNY Oneonta.” Fantastic; a step in the right direction. However, many more steps are necessary. Next step: The SA cannot just wait for issues to be raised to them, they must be aware of the campus pulse and be engaged with issues to proactively represent themselves as advocates to students who do not fully understand or think of them as a resource.
There are many issues of which I am cognizant and, due to my conscience, in support of. I am a student who, along with many others, struggles to stay afloat financially. During my four years at this institution I have held multiple jobs and have worked up to 40 hours a week to afford to attend Oneonta. My personal hardships and the knowledge that many others are similarly struggling motivated me to participate in the “Occupy the Quad” this past Wednesday, October 5. Dozens of people expressed their coalition with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The list of grievances is long; they also directed a lot of frustration towards an administration that is perceived to be inadequately advocating on behalf of students in the face of rising tuition. For failing to explain themselves when questioned by students regarding the perception by many students that they have unfairly fired at least one professor and coach, are not supporting the great resource of free tutors for students as well as cutting courses unfairly. The two million dollar surplus Oneonta has is in contrast to these actions and needs to be explained. If students don’t understand how the budget works, explain it to us!
I am grateful for Vice-President of Student Development Dr. Steve Perry’s presence at the protests on campus this past Wednesday. This demonstrates his proactive concern for student opinion. This is also why, on behalf of and to the cheers many in support of my statement in the quad, I made the first official demand: “… I call upon this administration to hold a mass meeting with concerned and frustrated to students to explain themselves… I am speaking to you Dr. Perry!…We pay the administration to do their job, they answer to us!…” This was an effort to have the administration engage in a constructive conversation with students and to find common ground. Please take it seriously and sincerely as such. Perry–please contact the protest organizers to schedule a meeting within the next two weeks. Demonstrations will only get larger if you do not.
I am also deeply concerned that the Student Association is not representing students’ deep frustrations. If Perry knew about a student protest that was organized and promoted on Facebook by students, how could the Student Association not know? I saw Vice President James Johnston present. However, no one representing the SA made themselves known to the protestors, nor did they speak to the protestors offering to engage in a dialogue about their concerns. An opportunity was missed for the SA to represent students. I hope that they will also contact the organizers of this protest of be a party to this dialogue. They can start with Alex Lyakhov at [email protected].

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