Around this time every year, students travel up to Albany to meet with state-elected representatives and lobby for increased CUNY funding. In past reports, I have highlighted key parts of the Baruch College student agenda, which included increased capital funding for the 23rd Street Building, reforming the Tuition Assistance Program, known as TAP and fighting for another tuition freeze. As we head upstate, we are faced with concerning changes in the Legislature.
To backtrack, CUNY’s senior colleges receive a majority of funding from the state budget. This means that the governor and state Legislature ultimately decide how much funding will be allocated where it will go.
Consisting of 63 members, the state Senate is made up of 31 Republicans, 23 Democrats, eight members in the Independent Democratic Caucus and one Democrat who announced that he will vote with Republicans.
The IDC is a group of Democrats who made a deal with Republican legislators for perks including increased staff and funding in exchange for breaking away from the rest of the Democrats and pushing an IDC agenda alongside Republicans.
Looking through a CUNY lens, without getting bogged down in partisan debate, this partnership is bad for our university. Historically, Republican senators from upstate New York care less about issues pertaining to CUNY and its students.
Their constituencies consist of New Yorkers who either attend SUNY or other private institutions, so CUNY students are not a priority to them. Student-lobbying efforts have become increasingly difficult as it is challenging to connect with upstate legislators or visit their district offices.
The IDC has put forward a platform which includes some issues that will benefit CUNY students. They publicly support the DREAM Act, or the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would provide state financial aid to undocumented students and has been on the student agenda for years, though it never passed through the Senate.
As a non-partisan organization, Baruch’s Undergraduate Student Government will work with any legislator willing to put higher education at the front of his or her agenda.
Members of the IDC must push CUNY issues to the front of the state agenda before we can be sold on their partnership with upstate senators. Four out of eight members of the IDC are CUNY graduates who live near a CUNY campus—we are looking for results.
Daniel Dornbaum is the president of USG. He can be reached at email@example.com. His office is located at 3-272 in the Newman Vertical Campus.