Continued Commitment

Cartoon by Stefanie Diers.

In an age of ongoing political unrest, SUNY New Paltz continues to uphold its long-held tradition of student–led activism. Year after year, New Paltz students gather in solidarity to support causes they believe in. The last two years of activism on campus have included a vigil for the death of Michael Brown, protests in advocacy of the Black Studies Department’s growth and importance and frequent walkouts against proposed tuition hikes within the SUNY system.

Just last week, over 150 students staged a walkout in front of the Humanities building to protest the SUNY-wide push for rational tuition increases. Reports from SUNY say that the tuition increases will amount to about $300 per year, with the increases spaced out to avoid a sudden jump in tuition costs. However, some students here at New Paltz and across SUNY’s 64 campuses would say that these tuition hikes are anything but rational.

We at T​he New Paltz Oracle ​would like to commend New Paltz students for their courage to speak their minds publicly and gather in defense of their access to education. The ability to voice our opinions is a right guaranteed under the First Amendment, a fact undeniable regardless of individual political stance.

As journalists, we fully understand the importance of the First Amendment. This amendment protects our right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, but also our right to freedom of the press. Without freedom of the press, we would not be able to publish this editorial. We at T​he New Paltz Oracle s​upport the right to use our freedoms to protest the injustices that occur around us and we believe that the walkouts represent an appropriate use of this right.

At the same time, we would like to recognize the privilege we have to publicly express our opinions without fear, both in the context of our country and our campus. Other spaces are not as open to criticism or dissenting voices. Students at Mount Saint Mary College, a private Catholic college in Newburgh, New York, reported feeling silenced and censored after a change in hands of administration.

A recent article from the T​imes-Herald Record ​quoted students and faculty at Mount Saint Mary College, who expressed their discomfort and fear of censorship after the appointment of President Anne Carson Daly in 2014. The administration was said to be extremely conservative and restrictive, which the Record a​ttributed to their decision to fire two professors who vocalized their opposition to the new administration’s leadership. On Tuesday, March 8, 2016, Daly announced her resignation from the position after a year of prolonged controversy.

We believe that incidents like this highlight the importance of student activism on college and university campuses. Whether or not these demonstrations will actually spur change cannot always be determined. However, peaceful protests, sit-ins and walkouts allow student voices to be heard.

Protests have shaped the history of this campus. From recent demonstrations in support of changes to the college’s drug policy, to town-wide shut-downs against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War during the 1960s, New Paltz students have always made their voices heard. Activism isn’t easy work, either. Campus activists pour tremendous amounts of time, energy and effort into making large-scale demonstrations happen. Here at T​he New Paltz Oracle​newsroom, we don’t always agree on all things political, but we can agree that exercising our freedoms is a cause for celebration.

Editorials represent the views of the majority of the editorial board. Columns, op-eds and letters, excluding editorials, are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The New Paltz Oracle, its staff members, the campus and university or the Town or Village of New Paltz.