Students will occupy Sojourner Truth Library on Friday, Dec. 9 as part of a protest to show their dissatisfaction with the building’s closing time and hours of operation.
In a petition circulated by “students with a common goal,” recent budget cuts to the SUNY system were blamed for the decrease in hours and the recent spikes in tuition for in-state and out-of-state students were used as justification for their cause.
On Tuesday, Dec. 6 the student senate voted to sign onto the petition, supporting the occupation.
“The group of students organizing this action wanted to be able to tie the larger message of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ to something tangible on campus that effects students every day,” third-year political science major Roberto LoBianco said. “The lack of library hours is a good way to do that.”
Currently, SUNY New Paltz has the lowest weekly operational library hours on SUNY campuses at 93, with SUNY Brockport and SUNY Oswego being the only other schools with hours below 100. The group plans to walk into the library’s lobby at 8:30 p.m. and intends to stay past the scheduled closing time of 9 p.m.
Cody Hill, a third-year sociology major, said the restricted hours are inconvenient for students because they are unable to do work and research at any time other than late nights.
“Students may not have access to computers, internet, printers, or any of the library’s other academic material at home, and as a collegiate institution, it is SUNY New Paltz’s responsibility to accommodate students who are paying for their education,” Hill said.
In a campus wide e-mail sent on Dec. 6, Dean of the Library Chui-chun Lee announced library hours will be extended beginning on Friday, Dec. 9.
From Sunday to Thursday, the library will be open an extra hour from its usual 11:30 p.m. closing time and the regular late night study room hours will be open until 3 a.m. on Sunday through Wednesday.
“The extension of library hours this Friday, while a welcome first step, doesn’t make up for [New Paltz’s low hours of operation],” LoBianco said. “If you compare New Paltz’s extended hours for finals week to other campuses, they’re still pretty dismal.”
LoBianco said the reduction in hours was a “direct result” of budget cuts to higher education and was only one example students could see. Hill said the students involved will hold teach-ins to discuss the SUNY budget situation and talk about ideas and concerns to educate and motivate people involved.
“The same message can be applied to out of control class sizes, limited availability of classes needed to graduate, overbearing workload for our professors and tuition hikes which will increase in-state by 30 percent and out-of-state by 60 percent over the next 5 years,” LoBianco said. “Since the 2008 financial crisis SUNY has faced $1.5 billion in cuts, this is unprecedented.”
LoBianco said the protest has been in the planning stages for about two weeks, but wanted to emphasize that the library staff has been notified of the students’ intent.
“[We] will ensure that this is done in a respectful manner so as not to inconvenience their faculty and staff,” LoBianco said.
Before occupying the library’s lobby, the group intends to meet on Thursday Dec.8 at 6 p.m. in Cafeteria on Main Street to prepare and attend an “Occupy New Paltz” meeting at the same location. The ultimate goal is to motivate students to become active in knowing more about their education, Hill said.
“This is by no means a movement against the library, but against those who decide that access to the library and our educational enrichment should not be made an absolute priority,” Hill said.