Students protest governor's budget decisions

From about 10 to 11 a.m., a group of nearly 100 students gathered outside Wadsworth auditorium to protest Gov. Paterson's budget.

The group, fronted by junior Adam Kroopnick, sought to register their disapproval with a number of the governor's deficit reduction measures. Student organizers led chants such as, "We are not an ATM" and "No taxation on our education" to express their disquietude.

The primary concern at hand was Paterson's decision to cut the 2008-2009 SUNY budget by nearly $2.5 million and to raise tuition by $310 per student per semester. Protesters argued that the SUNY Student Assembly only approved the tuition hike because they believed it was to help SUNY cover its budget shortfalls.

Through executive order, Paterson's budget calls for the state to take 90 percent of the tuition increase, leaving SUNY with only 10 percent. The protesters said that due to Paterson's office's reliance on fall enrollment figures - higher than spring figures - to calculate the percentage of his sweep, SUNY will actually lose an estimated 101 percent of the tuition increase.

Many protesters said they felt that the executive management of the SUNY budget, whereby the governor can mandate tuition increases and retain the revenue, is an irresponsible system, and called for legislative oversight.

Other student complaints centered on environmental concerns and criticized Paterson's devolution of cap and trade standards for carbon-emitting industries, which the protesters said would result in higher emissions and decreased state revenue.

To allay protester concerns, Paterson made a personal appearance at the gathering.

He addressed the issue of the tuition sweep, saying that the loss of 90 percent of the tuition increase is not unprecedented in New York state, and that this is the first time in state history that any of the tuition increase will be returned to the schools.

He also reminded the audience that the return of 10 percent would grow to 20 percent in the next year, 30 percent the year after and so on until the entire tuition increase would benefit SUNY.

"He wasn't too specific on the details, but I appreciate him coming to talk to us in person," said senior Nolan Quinn.

To participants, the event was a success. According to Kroopnick, today's protest was only the beginning of the process of raising awareness about SUNY's plight. "This isn't the end," he said. "We're not done. What's important is what comes next week, next month, next year."