Plenary meeting advances strides in #BeFare initiative and DREAM act
On April 7, I was able to attend the monthly University Student Senate plenary meeting. This is a meeting in which two delegates from each CUNY campus come together to talk about what is going on CUNY-wide and on local campuses.
USS is currently tackling excellence fees, which are additional fees for several CUNY school graduate-level programs. Unfortunately, these fees were passed on March 18. CUNY administration said they reached out to some graduate student governments, participants of these graduate-level programs and some random clubs on the respective campuses.
However, some campuses did not respond, but the administration still went on to increase these fees. What is the point of having a clause in contracts that says administration needs to consult with student government bodies when there is a lack of conversation? USS is trying to work on these situations since students need to have a voice in these matters and administration is lackluster following up.
Another item USS is concerned about is an inclusive CUNY agenda. We want to make CUNY as inclusive as possible. This agenda consists of having adequate prayer facilities on campuses, accessible facilities during all prayer times, a multitude of food options available on campus and including other holidays that students are not given off.
A university-wide campus climate working group came to speak to us as well. CUNY Board of Trustees is looking to add a new vice chancellor position that will focus on diversity, equity and inclusion within CUNY. One resource this group hopes to implement is the creation of scholarly videos on facilitating discussions about conversations we currently aren’t having. These include topics such as mental health, sexism and racism.
Another resource this group is working on is active links for all resources on campus in one secure location. This includes links and resources for mental health services, community services, the writing center, emergency funds, child care, disability offices and food and housing assistance for each respective campus.
On behalf of Baruch College, I will try to gather a list of these resources alongside the Office of Student Life and the New Student & Family Programs to create a document with all these working links to ensure all resources are easily available to students.
Thanks to Brandon A. Santiago and his #BeFare initiative, the Baruch community is making strides toward fair fares within the MTA and partnerships with ride-sharing companies. Brandon worked alongside USS to draft two resolutions to show USS support. One resolution is advocating for the Fair Fare’s initiative to include more CUNY students.
The other resolution is to have a LIRR discount for CUNY students. Santiago and Navjot Kaur, Baruch Undergraduate Student Government’s vice president of legislative affairs, were even able to meet with the president of the LIRR last week and brought up this issue to him. At the moment, Santiago is working on securing a partnership with Via and Baruch, since one Via ride is cheaper than a MetroCard swipe within Manhattan only. More good news to come.
The New York state budget was finalized on April 1, and the DREAM act, which allows undocumented students in New York state to qualify for state financial aid, was finally passed. USS will have two seats on the committee to flesh out the demand and needs of students for the DREAM act. CUNY was also allocated $2 million to create a pilot program to help create supplemental services for single CUNY parents.
These are two major wins for CUNY. Child care and opportunity funds got restored — this means no additional money was given; the state gave us money that it had cut back in the previous years. Finally, the TAP gap was not a priority to the legislature and governor. The city budget, however, is still in the works.
I will also be working with the USG team to create a mini-guide for clubs on campus to understand the various avenues that can acquire additional funds for their events on campus including USS co-sponsorship as well.
Radhika Kalani is the president of USG. She can be reached at email@example.com. Her office is located at 3-272 in the Newman Vertical Campus.