Students protest SUNY budget cuts

Wednesday's sit-in and protest of the proposed $90 million cut to the SUNY system represented the culmination of a week-long effort to bring attention to the issue.

Though organizers were successful in getting regional media to spotlight the cause, student participation was not as widespread as some had hoped.

A group of about 20 students gathered on Sunday to chalk sidewalks, create posters and set up tents to demonstrate how Albany is allegedly "leaving students out in the cold."

"We will be helpful to the state in the future if they can give us [financial support] now," junior Nick Kaasik told WHEC 10 Rochester, a regional news channel, on Sunday evening.

"We should be studying, [but] I figured it's nice out and this is a very good cause to support," said junior Colin Withers, who came to show his support for the effort.

YNN Rochester, 13 WHAM-TV and 1180 WHAM radio all visited campus on Monday and Tuesday to run segments on the student demonstrators. Democrat and Chronicle and WROC-TV were invited back on Wednesday to cover the protest and sit-in.

Around 1:15 p.m., approximately 100 students gathered on Sturges Quad to sign letters and petitions and to voice their opposition to the proposed cuts. Among the media outlets that visited campus to cover Wednesday's protest were WROC-TV 8 and the Democrat and Chronicle.

"We're not protesting the administration," said junior Will Labate, a key organizer of the demonstration. "They've done an excellent job of minimizing the effects that these cuts are having." He called on students to oppose Bundy Aid, which provides state funding to private colleges, and to demand that tuition money paid by students go directly to the college and not to the state where it can be allocated outside of the SUNY system.

Though the group was impressive in volume and passion as it moved through the campus shouting chants such as, "Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! These budget cuts have got to go!" and "Tuition for schools, not for state!" turnout was, by some accounts, underwhelming.

"It's a little disturbing, the apathy on campus," said senior Brian Hartle, Student Association's director of academic affairs.

Some passersby dismissed the protest as "stupid," others said that students choosing a state-funded school inherently accept less-funded programming as a trade-off for a relatively inexpensive degree.

During the all-college free hour, marchers walked to Erwin Hall for a 45-minute sit-in. Once inside, Kaasik led a mock eulogy mourning many of the programs that could be eliminated in the wake of budget cuts. A student shredded the syllabi of over 100 courses as Kaasik "lamented" the loss of courses, acceptable student-faculty ratios, professors and manageable office hours.

"Let us have a moment of silence as we bid farewell to 100 courses that were tragically cut short by state legislature," Kaasik said. He then directed students to sit quietly, display their signs and try not to disrupt the daily activities of administrators.

Students attending the sit-in paid compliments to the organization and impact of the event. "I think this was all really well organized," said sophomore Anders Korn. "I also think it's really important that we're focusing on the Bundy Aid because addressing that is something that could help."

"I just think that if SUNY students don't fight this, who's going to?" said junior Jeffrey Nathanson.

Geneseo will absorb approximately $890,000 of the $90 million in cuts if they are enacted. Though substantial, this figure is somewhat less than the $2.6 million that was originally anticipated by the administration.