Budget Advocacy Day provides open forum on college finances

Student Association hosted Budget Advocacy Day on Wednesday April 30 in the Integrated Science Center. Students were invited to attend and learn about the issues surrounding the current SUNY budget and discuss their opinions during the open forum that followed. SA Vice President junior Paul Michael and SA director of public relations senior Riley Burchell organized budget Advocacy Day. Originally intended to be on the patio outside of the ISC, rain forced it to be moved to the ISC lobby at the last minute.

Free food including wraps, pickles, cookies and potato chips, was served to the approximately 30 students in attendance. Vice President for Administration and Finance James Milroy and associate professor of psychology Dr. James Allen spoke about topics including Open SUNY, Albany budget issues, furlough days, faculty and staff rights and the liberal arts education as a whole.

First to speak was Allen, who focused mostly on the topic of furlough days. He explained that under a new contract faculty and staff are granted two furlough days, days in which they won’t be paid for their work.

“We could keep this, keep about our normal set of activities,” he said. “Don’t cancel office hours, don’t cancel class, counsel the students and go on about our business as usual.”

Allen explained that this is problematic because it teaches SUNY that they can continue to pay professors for fewer days than they work without a problem.

He said that the other option is for professors to cancel classes, office hours and other services for those two days they would be unpaid. According to Allen, this would be problematic because it directly affects the students’ education, although professors who have chosen to cancel classes have done so with minimal impacts on students.

Following Allen’s speech, Milroy spoke about the current tuition plan. This plan, called the Rational Tuition Bill, began in May 2011 and increases students’ tuition by $300 each year for five consecutive years.

Milroy explained that there is no benefit to students by increasing the tuition each year. Rather than the students seeing the benefits of this increase, the government and SUNY system as a whole is.

He explained that this was done because the state was facing a budget crisis, something that has happened previously.

Following these two introductory speeches, the floor was open to students to ask questions and make comments about the current SUNY budget. Many students asked questions, and after the forum officially ended, students asked questions in private conversations with Milroy and Allen.

Michael felt that it was important for SA to give students this opportunity to learn more about the budget.

“It affects us, it’s our money,” he said. “The state is slowly siphoning it away from students and faculty. If there’s anything that the state should be covering, it’s our education.”