Letter to the Editor: Migrant advocacy group calls on administration to provide busing for international students

Thanks to advocacy after the spring launch of SUNY’s No Student Goes Hungry Program and her international student Udeshi Seneviratne’s Geneseo Speaks petition that met its signature threshold in less than a day, the situation of food insecurity and immobility for international students over extended breaks has become a topic of concern around campus. As winter break approaches, Student Coalition for Migrant Workers has the following to say: 

“The administration’s stance toward expanding LATS service puts all of us, international and domestic students alike, in an impossible situation. Without the means or the time to go home for long breaks, international students have no option other than to remain in Geneseo. The administration opts to close campus dining halls during these breaks.” 

Food can’t be bought economically in large quantities on Main Street; the only place to do so is at the supermarkets along Route 20A. International students largely don’t have access to cars or licenses and rely upon public transportation to get to supermarkets. The administration also opts not to continue bus services during breaks. 

Without public transportation, international students must go to Walmart or Wegmans on foot during some of the coldest months of the year: a student living on Lower Court might walk an hour each way on roads without sidewalks in snow and in frigid temperatures. Without any action, this will continue to happen.

Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio told The Lamron that “if we diverted resources into this, we would have to take it from somewhere else.” At the weekly meeting of the Student Association on Nov. 14, President Battles stated that any expansion of bus service would have to be funded by increasing student fees. The Executive Board of Student Association has repeated this line. 

Since their last statements, no public action has been taken on the part of the administration to deal with this problem. Why is the responsibility for dealing with such a serious issue being placed on the shoulders of students? This is not a case of extra trips to the mall: people need to eat. 

Administrators know that students do not want to pay more mandatory fees: in order to avoid financial expenses, the administration relies on domestic students to be apathetic to this issue. If we choose apathy, administrators will not give this serious health issue the attention it needs, since it affects a relatively small population of non-citizen international students. When the college does this, it fails to uphold our stated values of Inclusivity and Civic Responsibility. 

When the Executive Board of SA finds the possibility of hiring a new, permanent athletic trainer more likely than making sure international students have access to basic necessities, it fails to support its mission to represent all Geneseo students. The college’s assertion that an increase in fees are the only means to solve this problem is simply uncreative. 

If LATS service cannot be immediately expanded, ride-shares organized with campus vehicles or from break RAs are short-term, internally-coordinated solutions. In solidarity with international students, Student Coalition for Migrant Workers calls on the administration to perform its duty by solving this problem quickly, effectively and without passing off its responsibility onto the student body. 

Student Coalition for Migrant Workers