On Wednesday, April 8, the 59th Student Senate met in the Coykendall Science Building auditorium to present the State of the Campus address to those in attendance.
Only 10 student senators were initially present at the event. It was decided the meeting would begin despite the necessary quorum of 13 student senators for meetings to take place.
The meeting, sponsored by the Student Concerns Committee, began with talk of the upcoming Student Association (SA) elections to be held from April 28-30. This round of elections will fill all senate seats and all seats on the executive board, along with amendments to the SA constitution and a referendum to pass the activity fee.
The activity fee requires each student to pay money to the SA to fund clubs and events on campus for the next two years. The referendum, if passed, would make this fee optional and it was mentioned at the address that if a sizable number of students opt out of paying the fee, club and event funding would be cut.
There was then discussion on the raising of tuition. The current SUNY arrangement raises tuition by $150 a semester. The Student Senate has passed two pieces of legislation: one condemns the SUNY 2020 program and the other is against the START-UP New York program, which provides tax-free zones for businesses around SUNY campuses.
Senators noted that while this plan was intended for small business, they fear that larger corporations will “abuse it.”
According to SA, SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Purchase are currently the only two schools to pass legislation against the tuition hikes, while SUNY Oneonta is the only school to pass legislation supporting the hikes. SUNYs Buffalo and Stony Brook also support the hikes but have not yet passed legislation to that effect.
SA Executive Vice President Jesse Ginsberg presented a plan to create a University Police Department (UPD) oversight committee. He noted this type of committee is present in New York City, Oakland, California and the state of Michigan and requires a police oversight committee at all of their state colleges.
According to Ginsberg, current issues that would be resolved by this committee include the fact that the Chief of Police has total discretion to accept or disregard advice from the community, UPD handles investigations into their own officers and policies and since there is no third party to address misconduct by UPD, they are the only body who take reports of this kind. Students do not feel comfortable coming forward, Ginsberg said.
Cait O’Connor, who plans to run for a senator seat in the upcoming elections, and Sen. Christine Rivera spoke out against sexual assault. O’Connor presented statistics she gathered as a senator last year that showed our schools on campus drug arrests are considerably higher than arrests for sexual assault and other crimes of that nature.
If elected, she plans to present legislation next semester that would push to purchase date-rape drug testing kits and provide them to any student who thinks they may have been sexually assaulted and/or drugged. She noted that these kits cost only $4.77 for a pack of three.
Other presentations were given by Sen. Rookie Reynoso, who spoke about the state of the African American community on campus, Sen. Brienna Perez, who discussed the arbitration clause of our student contracts and Sen. James Auer, who laid out the changes that the Campus Auxiliary Services Board are making to the meal plans.