This the question that I've been asking everyone I have seen for the past few days.
This year alone, the University at New Paltz has suffered from a $3.2 million budget deficit, and it's only going to get worse. Two years ago the Nursing program was cut from our curriculum, and now our administrators are looking to cut another program to close this gap. With the new proposed budget from our state legislature, the SUNY system will face even more budget cuts next year. After having cut countless staff and faculty, the only place left to cut (according to our wonderful administration) is our academics.
At first, our Student Association executive board was fighting the administrators, but we realized that these people were stuck between a rock and a hard place; They are dealing with the cards they have been dealt by our government. Re-aiming our anger and frustration, we are now focusing our efforts on trying to get through to our legislature in Albany.
Our first step? We held an informational meeting for students that preceded the administrations forum. The first was specific to how our University is dealing with the cuts... There is, of course, a serious lack of transparency between the administration and our student body, and while we are not happy about that, we have decided to focus on the larger issue. Therefore, our forum for students focused not only on New Paltz, but on the much larger scale of things as well.
Cuts to higher education are not just happening in the SUNY system, but all over the world. Students have been protesting in Wisconsin, California, Mexico, Spain, and London. We thought it was time for us to join the fight.
On March 8th, the students of SUNY New Paltz will walk out of their classes at 12:30 pm, leaving with a statement verbalizing our frustration and intolerance for any further cuts to higher education. For those not in classes at that time, don't worry! They'll still have their chance to be seen and heard in this protest! At 1pm that day we will all congregate in the Student Union building in which there will be a series of workshops to educate students about the budget, the cuts, and how to effectively and appropriately lobby our legislatures.
Why the lobbying part? you may ask. On Tuesday, March 14th, representatives from all SUNY and CUNY school systems will be traveling to Albany to speak with our district officials. This day is called SUNY Palooza and happens every year.
The fourth component to our Teach-in workshops will be a collaborative effort in community organizing and outreach, because these cuts to education are not just specifically geared towards higher education. Education on every level is receiving less and less funding each year. I am aware that schools near my home are finding it necessary to close one or more schools due to recent cuts, and the same thing is happening here in New Paltz. In a community where I feel I have made a very strong connection, our executive board hopes to help out our public school system just as much as our own University, because we all care about our community and New Paltz as a whole.
After the four sessions, there will be some entertainment, (maybe food!), and sign making (for a rally we are planning for later in the semester), alongside a petition signing station and an area with phones for people to call our legislatures and bombard them with phone calls.
Our overall goal is that we want the government to know that we are watching them, and we're not happing with what we're seeing. These cuts to education have been going on long enough and they need to stop now. They are undermining a basic principle that our country has run on for a long time: Public Education for all. If these cuts continue, the SUNY school system will be forced to become privatized, which completely disregards the whole idea of SUNY.
Our generation refuses to see the disappearance of our SUNY system, along with the schools that our future children will be attending from K-12 and on.
It's time that education takes the front seat, instead of being shoved in to the trunk of our government's brand new Hummer.