Board of trustees announces student fee outreach plans


The proposed changes to CUNY colleges' student activity fees may be delayed beyond the 2018-2019 school year, CUNY Board of Trustees Chairperson William Thompson Jr. announced at the March 19 board of trustees meeting.

After receiving feedback from CUNY students, faculty and staff, the trustees have decided to develop a communication and outreach plan to better explain specific changes, as well as be more transparent.

"CUNY and this board of trustees is committed to continuing the longstanding tradition of students shaping the ways in which student activity fees support student life and essential student services," said Thompson.

The proposed changes to the student activity fees include a restructuring of how fee money is distributed at most CUNY colleges, as well as the elimination of certain earmarked funds.

This has left many students fearful that their clubs and organizations may be affected by the change.

Some students, as displayed at the board of trustees' Public and Brooklyn Borough Hearing on March 12, also feel that student voices will not be taken into account with the proposed activity fee changes. Last October, the board of trustees assembled a taskforce that included student, staff and faculty input to address the issue and make suggestions for changes that were to be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year.

"It's become clear over the past few weeks that in spite of the extensive efforts of the taskforce and its representatives, students and faculty feel there is a lack of information and transparency regarding the changes to be made," Thompson said. "The board appreciates the concerns that have been brought directly to us through testimony at the recent hearing, a letter from the PSC, a resolution of the Student Senate, which very specifically addresses the lack of support for these changes at this time."

The communication plan is led by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Christopher Rosa, Thompson said. The plan will include a new website about the changes with all relevant documents posted, including meeting minutes, will be posted, as well as an open letter sent to every CUNY college newspaper. Thompson stressed that the process around the fee changes must be "deliberative, inclusive and thoughtful."

"I think it's fair to say we understand how critical that student activities are to students’ core values of shared governance and self-direction when it comes to the fees,"  Rosa said in an interview with The Ticker. "And I believe that we have been proceeding with an abiding appreciation for how important that is for students. And one thing that I can say is that we're committed to consistently getting feedback from all stakeholders, but especially students throughout this process."

Thompson asserted at the meeting that during the implementation of the communication plan, the fee task force would continue to meet and provide feedback to the trustees.

Around 15 students from across CUNY attended the meeting as a follow-up to the heated March 12 hearing.

"We're here today, obviously not in large numbers, [sic] just to keep the board of trustees on their toes and let them know that we're still watching them," Smitha Varghese, the statewide chair of the New York Public Interest Research Group and student at Queens College, said.

"Just letting them know that hey, we're watching you, and today was just a small glimpse of what the future meetings, the big meetings, will look like," she said.