In the Spring semester of 2016, protests occurred throughout many CUNY campuses. The issue at hand revolved around tuition hikes at the university. The initial demonstrations were targeted at CUNY administrators and government officials, as they were the key players in the budget process during the fiscal year.
When large protests like these occur, other individuals or groups tend to join in to help promote the cause. Some groups may join, however, to shift the message toward one that directly benefits them.
As different messages were mixed in with the tuition protests, certain students felt attacked and singled out and raised concern with their local representatives. At a city council public hearing, councilmembers put pressure on university administration to change the policy when it came to organizing on campus.
The university obliged and proposed changes to the policy on Freedom of Expression and Expressive Conduct. These changes were subsequently brought to the board of trustees near the very end of the Spring semester.
The main change included limiting on-campus protests to certain areas designated by the college president. This change was implemented due to the need to maintain order and refrain from jeopardizing proper university business operations.
Students came out to testify against the proposed change stating that it limited their freedom of speech and right to organize. The students also complained that the policy had been proposed at the end of a semester, which is a time when many students had been busy with finals and had not paid close attention to the administered change.
Administration agreed to table the discussion but the policy is expected to re-emerge as early as the October board of trustees meeting. The University Student Senate will be drafting its own proposed policy change but wants widespread student feedback before putting it to a vote.
In the upcoming weeks, USS will hold committee meetings in order to add necessary changes to the document and will vote on it before it comes to the decision of its full body. Any student can attend these meetings and vote in a committee.
No matter what side of the argument students agree with, it is essential that they play a role in the process. Whether that be by attending a USS committee meeting or delivering testimonies to the board of trustees, it is crucial that every student has his or her voice heard.
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.