Muller: Petitions and protests do nothing but state the obvious

Nobody ever made history by taking the path of least resistance.

Because ignorant people are so very prevalent – many of us are reminded of this each day in the classroom and around the dinner table – it's easy to presume that people who choose silence or even apathy do so because they don't understand what's happening or how they can change it. Sometimes, though, people keep their mouths shut not because they're content but because they don't have the answer and would rather focus on making the best of a difficult situation than whining about it.

The Student Association has passed a resolution calling on the good people who work in Albany to restore funding to the SUNY system. That's fine, and I presume that the executive board will attach a billion-dollar check to help the state balance the budget after splurging on public higher education. That will be necessary, of course, because the state has no money.

Gov. David Paterson said this when he visited Geneseo in March 2009, and he's been saying it ever since. The reasons the state has no money are complicated but involve the Great Recession, the collapse of Wall Street and the legislature's resistance to raising taxes for fear that millionaires will move away from this glorious place.

The thing is, the state wholly or partially funds a variety of worthy programs and institutions that benefit residents of New York. Yes, some taxpayer money goes to unnecessary projects and inflated salaries and, indeed, private universities, and maybe that's a consequence of living in a place where contractual agreements are reliable and dependable – sometimes it takes a while to get things done, and in the meantime money flows where it probably shouldn't.

At the end of the day, though, I have to believe that the state government of New York spends money on things that are … in New York State. If more money is going to come to SUNY, it needs to come from somewhere else, from some other agency or payroll recipient that had previously depended on the receipt of that money.

Without guidance on where savings might be realized or additional revenues found, petitions and resolutions decrying budget cuts merely state the obvious: SUNY is a loser in the budget crisis. When you distribute a certain amount of money to a set number of parties and the money disappears but the recipients don't, someone is going to end up a loser. In the case of New York State, I fear there are far more losers than many people realize; have you met anyone who is a winner?

I have no idea whether the Geneseo administration chose the correct programs to deactivate because I have yet to see any comprehensive rationale behind the decision. I also have yet to hear of a solution to the budget crisis that gives everyone everything they want. I feel sorry for students and faculty who must find new places of study and employment following the deactivation decision, but I don't know that good alternatives are available.

Like most people, I am not intimately familiar with state budgetary appropriations because I do not have the time or inclination to keep up with undoubtedly complex matters. And so, like most people, I trust that my elected representatives will take the time to consider the issues before them and make sound choices.

Until I am presented with hard evidence that they are making unreasonable decisions, I will not be contacting my representatives. I chose to attend a state university knowing that I would not benefit from the security of a billion-dollar endowment and if my Geneseo degree hinders my success in life because the college ran out of money then so be it.

I probably wasn't destined to make the pages of history anyway.