Students petition against budget cuts

After Gov. Paterson's recent call for additional budget cuts, Geneseo student senators have begun the circulation of a petition demanding no further cuts to the SUNY system.

Paterson's latest plan is a special session of the state legislature, to be held Nov. 18, that will look to make an additional $1.8 billion in cuts to the state budget, which includes the SUNY system.

In College Senate meetings, President Dahl has advocated for the creation of a "Political Advocacy Campaign," and student senators have decided to respond by creating a petition through which students can express their concerns.

The purpose of the campaign is to, "tell the governor's office that this is unacceptable, we cannot take any more cuts," said senior student senator Nick Lombardo, who spearheaded the project with senior Ben DeGeorge. "Any more cuts would mean a reduction in the services that we already have."

In addition to demanding no further budget cuts, the petition advocates a rational tuition policy, which would allow for modest tuition increases every year, and more operational flexibility for the SUNY system.

Currently, tuition paid by students goes directly to the state, which decides how to allocate the money. Distributing at least some of the money directly to Geneseo would allow the administration to spend that money as it sees fit rather than in accordance with state-mandated guidelines.

Student senators have worked with Student Association to distribute the petition. Copies are available in the SA office and have been distributed through resident assistants, individuals and tables in the union during the all-college free hour.

"The student body has been extremely responsive," said Lombardo.

At an Oct. 22 SA meeting, Dahl spoke with student groups about the current state of the budget at Geneseo. The gap presently amounts to $2,423,707, which has been accommodated by holding 29 faculty positions vacant, postponing equipment and computer replacement, and reducing utility expenses.

In a worst-case scenario, the 2009-2010 shortfall could top $4 million, which would necessitate severe reductions in faculty and staff, increased class sizes, and possibly the elimination of some academic programs.

In addition, Dahl said there is, "no alternative to a mid-year tuition increase."

Although exact figures were not available, Lombardo estimated the number of student signatures to be in the hundreds. The senators plan to mail all collected signatures by Tuesday so that they reach the governor's office before the Nov. 18 session.