In a break from the weekly Student Association (SA) senate meetings, SA officials hosted a “State of the Campus” program on Wednesday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Lecture Center 104.
The event was sponsored by SA and the Student Concerns Committee (SCC), headed by Senate Chair Carissa Moore, to provide an open forum for members of the SUNY New Paltz student body to become more familiar with their elected senators and SA E-board members.
At the beginning of the event, Moore said the SCC and SA wanted to host a public event for students to become more familiar with how SA and senate operate.
“This is about who we are, what we do, and we ask that you address your concerns. This is a program for us to hear from you and understand what your concerns are,” Moore said
Though not technically a senate meeting, the program operated in a similar way to how the weekly senate meetings run. SA E-Board members began the meeting by introducing themselves, explaining what their individual jobs entail and discussing the areas of legislation and reform they are currently working on.
Executive Vice President Zachary Rousseas said SUNY New Paltz will be the first SUNY school to allocate a specific amount of money for gender-affirming procedures.
“Every few years the school re-assesses the healthcare policy, and it coincided with SA and Queer Student Union’s advocacy,” Rousseas said. “This is a huge victory for us.”
Vice President of Academic Affairs and Governance Jordan Taylor said discussions concerning the Student Activity Fee are ongoing, and final details are still being ironed out.
Taylor reminded students that the final decision on the state of the activity fee, whether it increases, remains the same, or does not pass, is theirs.
“We don’t increase the fee, students increase the fee,” Taylor said. “We have been trying to be transparent with this, the numbers are constantly fluctuating. The increase isn’t our decision to make.”
After introduction by SA E-board and senators were made, outside bodies that work closely with SA, including Residence Hall Student Association (RHSA), New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and The New Paltz Oracle each spoke about the functions of their respective groups.
Discussion then turned to student concerns. SA and SCC opened the floor for attending students not involved with any of the organizations represented at the event to ask questions.
Campus Meal Plans and Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) Board activities were brought up, with one student voicing concern over the price of meal plans and price of meals on campus.
Senator Osato Okundaye, who serves on the CAS Board, said the board has agreed to allow a non-voting student food service employee onto the board.
The program also heard concerns of sexual assault crimes on campus and issues regarding racial issues on campus. Taylor said he and other senators are working on the creation of a new committee that would focus on improving racial tensions at SUNY New Paltz.
SA President Manuel Tejada said the progress made in the past couple years has been encouraging, despite trouble getting off the ground.
“There were setbacks in the beginning and resistance from administration, but in the past two years we have seen much more progress,” Tejada said. “But when we…come together to work on these issues and work through different channels, you will see progress.”
Senator and SCC member James Auer said he, Moore and Taylor saw the event as a chance for SA and senators to get a better pulse on student concerns. He also said there are plans for the program to continue in the future.
“We collectively realized that it would be beneficial to have something like this annually,” Auer said. “Essentially this is our State of the Union Address.”