Student reps address SUNY policy

The State University of New York’s Student Assembly discussed policies for individual schools and the SUNY Student Assembly as a whole at its biannual General Assembly Conference in Rochester from Nov. 8-10.

The conference addressed issues such as tuition assistance, textbook affordability and transparency, blood donor equality and SUNY’s Seamless Transfer Policy, but only after an opening day of procedural programming.

Geneseo’s Student Association President senior Forrest Regan, along with sophomore Gina Villazhinay represented Geneseo at the conference. The two students voted on nonbinding issues that helped to provide insight for SUNY Student Assembly President Tremayne Price, who is a graduate student at the University of Albany. Price is the sole voting student representative on the SUNY Board of Trustees.

During the first day, the General Assembly managed to accept an agenda, approve last conference’s minutes, which had been lost, and vote in a special election for a new vice president.

The SUNY Student Assembly advocated for an increase in the amount and duration of assistance from the New York State Tuition Assistance Program. Federal advocacy also passed in support of the return to a lower fixed interest rate on student loans, separate from the market.

A memorandum on textbook affordability brought up many ideas, new and old, about textbook options for students. SUNY has begun to develop of a new program titled “Open SUNY Textbooks.” The program allows free full access to SUNY faculty-developed textbooks for many popular introductory-level classes. As of now, a pilot program includes books on North American history and humanities, with 15 new titles coming.

Additionally, a representative from the graduate program at the University of Buffalo brought up an often-ignored higher education act meant to aid students in choosing classes based on textbook prices.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act, Section 112 Provision D states that schools receiving federal assistance must disclose the ISBN number and retail price of any required materials at the time of registration.

“[Students] blindly [register] for classes without knowing how much book expenses are going to be,” Villazhinay said, expressing concerns on the behalf of Geneseo students.

She suggested professors post book lists during registration periods instead of a few weeks before classes begin.

Stony Brook University sponsored a memorandum calling for the repeal of a Federal Drug Administration ban on blood donations from men who have had sexual contact with men. While the memorandum was widely supported, some felt it did not do enough. The memorandum did not include any stipulations relating to women, who are also prevented from donating if they have sexually engaged with men who have had sexual contact with other men. It was decided that the repeal of one would imply the other.

A representative from SUNY Fredonia brought up SUNY’s Seamless Transfer Policy. The policy increases the number of number of general education requirements to 30 credits in seven out of 10 subjects, setting standard expectations for introductory-level classes and capping required credits by a department at 120.

“This agenda only restricts SUNY students’ options and tampers the reputations of individual institutions, like Geneseo,” Regan said. Regan added an amendment allowing for schools to identify those programs it felt should be exempt from the proposed cap.

The Seamless Transfer Policy passed with Regan’s amendment.