Students seek to keep diversity strong at Geneseo

Thirty-plus students will defend their peers’, next year’s class and perhaps their own ability to attend Geneseo at the annual Educational Opportunity Program Advocacy Day.

On Wednesday Feb. 12, a group of Geneseo students, along with Access Opportunity Programs staff, will travel to the State Capitol in Albany to voice its concerns over budget cuts.

As outlined in the State University of New York Executive Budget Summary, ,400 is expected to be cut from EOP for the 2014-2015 academic year. EOP is among the few university-wide programs affected. Other cuts are from the Advanced Technology Training and Information Networking, Marine Animal Lab and Cornell Veterinary College.

The ,400 in funds is divided among SUNY campuses with EOP programs, including Geneseo.

The budget cuts affect Geneseo’s ability to admit students into the EOP program, according to AOP Director Calvin Gantt. Roughly 500 students currently participate in AOP, which houses state-supported EOP and Geneseo-specific Transitional Opportunity Program. Both programs address underrepresented student populations in an attempt to diversify the campus.

“Geneseo is limited to serve two, maybe three percent of the students who are eligible and meet all EOP guidelines,” Gantt said. This isn’t new, however, as the EOP budget has been cut consistently since 1985. Gantt said since that year, EOP hasn’t received full support from the state.

In addition to prospective students, budget cuts can also impact current students’ abilities to remain enrolled, Gantt said.

Since the students are at the ones affected, Geneseo students take the primary role at Advocacy Day. The students will have the opportunity to attend individual meetings with the legislators of the areas where Geneseo students hail.

“I think the students are the ones who really need to be heard,” said TOP counselor Gabriel Iturbides, who has participated in roughly a decade’s worth of Advocacy Days with Geneseo’s AOP staff and St. Bonaventure University as a Higher Education Opportunity Program student. “I’ve been heard before and I’ll probably be there again next year, but for some students, this may be it.”

While students are advocating for EOP, it isn’t exclusive to EOP students. This year, roughly 20 TOP students, as well as a handful of non-AOP students are expected to attend. Gantt points out that it’s important for non-AOP students to attend and explain the importance of diversity on their campus.

“Those types of issues are just as relevant for [the legislators] to hear … When you cut to programs of this nature, you’re cutting a huge part of the diverse population at each campus,” Gantt said.

In years past, the EOP Advocacy Day has helped. According to Iturbides, last year’s EOP budget received a 3 percent increase from the proposed budget.

While the fiscal year ends on June 30, the state budget could pass as early as May 1.