USG Report: Public hearings need more student input

The City University of New York is the largest urban university in the world with over 500,000 students enrolled at 24 different campuses. A select 17 individuals, chosen to be part of the board of trustees, are tasked with determining the course of the university. The board in its current structure was formed in 1979, following the New York State Legislature’s adoption of the CUNY Financing Governance Act.

According to state law, the board must be made up of 10 appointees chosen by the governor of New York state and five by the mayor of New York City. One student representative and one faculty representative fill the remaining two seats. Both of these seats are considered ex-officio members. The student representative, however, has a vote while the faculty representative is a non-voting member. The law goes into more details about the appointments but I will save that for a future column.

The board meetings are held on a set schedule every month. The first week of each month, the different committees convene to discuss items that will come up at the full board meeting. During the third week of each month, the full board meets for a public hearing on the 14th floor of the Newman Vertical Campus to give everyone a chance to testify on the items on the agenda. Finally, on the fourth week of the month, the board reconvenes at Baruch College to vote on the different items.

Student participation at public hearings is essential to the success of CUNY as a whole. One seat on the board is a great start, but students are easily outvoted on any issue. By showing up and testifying for or against any agenda item, the other members of the board are forced to acknowledge the student voice. In the past year alone, students have testified against tuition hikes and limiting freedom of expression on campus.

In these cases, students from across the university made it a point to show up and voice their concerns. Some traveled from the Bronx, Staten Island and Queens to make sure that they were heard. Baruch students have it the easiest, as the public hearings are held in the main building of their campus. In the coming year, the board is bound to cover issues that personally affect the students.

Last week at the September public hearing, attendees delivered over three hours of public testimony. There were dozens of speakers who advocated for various issues, but only a handful of them were students. It is imperative that students from across the university come out and share their experiences with the board.

Daniel Dornbaum is the president of USG. He can be reached at daniel.dornbaum@usgbaruch.com. His office is located at 3-272 in the Newman Vertical Campus.

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