USG passes USS resolution to freeze CUNY tuition

With the potential expansion of the Rational Tuition Plan pending, representative senators and executive board members of the USG used their recent Town Hall  to voice their differing opinions on the plan and answer questions on other topics relevant to Baruch students. The town hall meeting was held on Oct. 20 at the Bearcat Lounge.USG’s town hall meeting allowed Baruch students to discuss matters affecting the quality of their higher education with select senators and executive board members of USG in a public forum. The majority of the discussion focused on the Rational Tuition Plan and USG’s stance on its possible extension.

The University Student Senate passed a resolution last May in unanimous support of a tuition freeze, stating that the New York State Legislature should “fund the increasing mandatory cost within CUNY as part of the maintenance of effort.”

At the seventh USG senate meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13, Lucas Almonte, USS vice chair of legislative affairs and Terrence Martell, chair of the University Faculty Senate, spoke to USG about their conflicting opinions on the Rational Tuition Plan. Although USS is for a tuition freeze, Martell advocated for the continuation of the Rational Tuition Plan.

Martell understands that students do not want to pay more for tuition stating that, “I see a situation where we don’t get the bill, mandatory costs and rational tuition increases. That’s what we should be fighting for. That should be a joint position that USS and UFS take, that should be the position we put forth to the government.”

While the opinions of the USG senators present during the town hall meeting were split, most seemed to be against the possibility of another tuition hike.

USG President Annie Sourbis stated, “CUNY was started to be a free academy, to offer a quality higher education to students who were minority or low income. If we continue to increase our tuition, there will be more and more students who can’t go here … then who is CUNY really serving?”

Senators who were against the tuition hike recommended that students bring their concerns about any potential tuition hikes straight to their district representatives. Daniel Dornbaum, vice president of legislative affairs, pushed for this method in particular, stating that, “You as students can go to your elected officials and say ‘Look, I am a student at CUNY and if there is a spike in my tuition, I know that you vote on the budget and I vote for you, and I won’t vote for you if you raise my tuition.’”

During the second half of the forum, students who were present had the opportunity to field questions to the USG panel.

One question in particular asked if the passing and approval of the resolution would have any concrete effect or whether the state would choose to ignore it completely. Dornbaum responded that USG was acting as more of an “advisory board,” and that they do not have the final say on the matter.

“We need a lot more student advocacy and input into the political process that is our state and city government. USS as well as USG here at Baruch do a lot of work of going and speaking to our elected, but we are always looking to increase the amount of students that are involved in the process … We will see more of a transparent government in regards that they will listen to us and see our point of view,” said Dornbaum.

Dornbaum added, “This resolution is the starting point. This will hopefully spark something within the students.”

At the eighth USG senate meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 20, the senate voted on two different resolutions about the potential expansion of the Rational Tuition Plan.

The resolutions, written by Dornbaum, stated that USG either “supports USS in their advocacy of a freeze on tuition, and fully support the USS’s resolution to ‘Preserve the Affordability and Accessibility of Higher Education within CUNY’” or that the “Baruch College USG support[s] an extension of the “Rational Tuition Increase Program.’”

Although the majority of the senate originally voted against having a discussion and were prepared to immediately vote, senators voiced their opinions and went over the reasoning and possible outcomes of each resolution.

Nardine Salama, executive vice president of USG, said to the senate that USS is hoping to gain support from all of the CUNY colleges on their resolution to go to state legislators and push for a tuition freeze. “So, before a bill even gets passed, they just want to show legislators there is unity and we don’t want rational increases. I know it’s not the best because we don’t know what the alternative is but that’s where we’re at,” said Salama.

One student outside the senate table questioned why the senate does not put the vote to students and choose whichever they decide.

Since every USG representative senator represents 1,000 undergraduate students, Dornbaum noted that, “If we do that, then what’s the point of all of [us] sitting here?”

Salama stated that “Not every student is aware of the situation and USG has presented multiple opportunities for students to come discuss this and hear their voices out. We have surveys; we have the USG Town Hall. It’s a two-way street; we can’t keep providing information and then not get anything back.”

“It’s up to the students, as passionate as they are about the $300 increase or the $1,200 that accumulates over four years. It’s their job to make it their problem … but realistically it’s not a feasible idea to have every single student in Baruch vote about it. Unfortunately, it’s just the reality of it,” continued Salama.

Though some senators had chosen a side, a few were still neutral in the matter.

Agata Poniatowski, chair of public relations, had not formed a strong opinion on the Rational Tuition Plan because of lingering concerns with both sides.

“I understand both sides of the situation, but one is fighting for the students and one is fighting for the education at the school, or supposedly because we still don’t know where the money actually will go. That’s one of my main concerns with voting for that side,” said Poniatowski.

“And voting for the side of the students and not raising tuition is really important because I probably wouldn’t be able to go here either,” she continued.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Cherry Aung had also brought up to the senate her position on continuing the Rational Tuition Plan and said, “Originally I didn’t really want to say anything because the senate voted for against discussion but I think it’s only fair to hear the other side of the argument and explain our concern. I agree with the underlying mission of both sides … It’s just two different means of getting it,” explained Aung.

“I feel that there’s too many variables, too many factors that rely on ‘what if’ if we do cease tuition. We’re hoping that by ceasing tuition the state would make up for that deficit in funding but what if the state doesn’t decide to do it,” she continued.

By the end of the meeting, the senate resolved to support USS in their advocacy of a freeze on tuition and to support their resolution against the potential extension of the Rational Tuition Plan.

Thirteen senators voted in favor, two against and three abstained.

Now, Dornbaum says, “The next step will be continuing to join the efforts of USS and students across our university in convincing the state legislature that an extension of the rational tuition increase program is not the right choice for CUNY.”

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