Letter to The Editor

Geneseo is an exceptional college, but it lacks a reliable staff support system for LGBTQ-plus students. This is entirely unacceptable for a leading SUNY school that is considered a “public Ivy.” A cursory Google search of “Geneseo LGBTQ” reveals few resources for students. This highlights the core problem facing LGBTQ-plus students: the college officially offers essentially nothing. In all fairness, an LGBTQ-plus working committee was established in 2013 to advocate for students on a policy level for the college. This was an excellent step, however, it does nothing for students seeking LGBTQ-plus support systems.

Associate professor of English Alice Rutkowski has done incredible work for students entirely on a volunteer basis and firmly believes that Geneseo is invested in providing support and resources for LGBTQ-plus students.

“My experience on this committee has demonstrated that our campus is filled with generous, well-intentioned individuals who want to help LGBTQ-plus students in any way they can,” Rutkowski said. “The fact that our Diversity Statement has recently been revised to include gender expression and sexuality is also very heartening.”

While Rutkowski is proud of Geneseo’s commitment to addressing topics like sexuality and gender identity, she believes that the university could do more to improve.

“Our college does not have the same kind of institutional commitment to these issues that our peer institutions do,” she said. “Given the college’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, I hope that we would soon be able to officially dedicate new staff and resources to this important issue.”

The peer institutions that Rutkoswki referred to have an on-staff representative to respond to crises, plan events, advocate for the students and make the college a safer and more comfortable place for LGBTQ-plus students overall.

Not only do schools like Syracuse University have comprehensive support systems with staff, but they also have a resource center and “safe spaces” for LGBTQ-plus students seeking help. Geneseo has nothing of the sort––the only “safe space” here is in the form of weekly Pride Alliance meetings.

Even SUNY Oneonta, a college of comparable size to Geneseo, has both a resource center and a staff member dedicated to these concerns. I have often heard that conditions are just fine for LGBTQ-plus students at Geneseo, so nothing needs to be done. In light of recent alleged harrassment of a transgender student, however, this is clearly not the case.

One might argue this is an anomaly, but my brief tenure on campus says otherwise. As a Pride executive board member, students come to other students and me with intense personal issues, seeking support and guidance because they have nowhere else to go. It is entirely unacceptable that this burden is placed on Pride, a student organization, because the college has put no other safety net in place for these students.

Unlike other minorities, LGBTQ-plus people often have no one to look to for specific support; family members aren’t often LGBTQ-plus, let alone understanding or tolerant. This unique status is what demands institutional support systems that other colleges have recognized and established. Until Geneseo recognizes that it needs a staff member to protect and support its LGBTQ-plus students, the college will fail to adequately show support for them.

The LIVES Program reflects

April is Autism Awareness Month, which is an excellent time to think about one of the core values of this great college: diversity. Diversity is a word that means a lot to us as students in the LIVES Program at Geneseo.  LIVES stands for “Learning Independence, Vocational, and Educational Skills,” and it is a program based on diversity.

The LIVES Program is offered through the college in conjunction with outside agencies that support people with disabilities: The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming, Genesee Valley Educational Partnership and Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Services Office. In the LIVES Program, students with all types of disabilities – autism, down syndrome and speech, intellectual and physical disabilities – learn, work and socialize with each other and with students who don’t have disabilities.

We are proud to be an active part of a thriving Geneseo student body. Like so many of our non-disabled peers, some of us started out as shy, nervous freshmen who feared being thought of as “different.” Those thoughts change with time and experience, however.

Over the course of our four years here, us LIVES students studied beside you, dined with you on Main Street, played and grew in integrated social settings and lent a helping hand through our internships at Milne Library, the mail room, Merritt workout center and the dining halls.

Next month, our seniors will walk across the stage like every other graduating student, decked out for commencement in full cap and gown. Our dads will beam with pride. Our moms will shed some tears. And after the pomp and circumstance, we’ll face the “real world” together, with excitement in our eyes and butterflies in our bellies.

Then we’ll go our separate ways. Some of us will hunt for jobs, and others will go on to further studies. But we’ll all look back at our time at Geneseo as some of the best years of our lives, with immense gratitude for the friends, faculty and staff members who gave us confidence to succeed.

Our internship supervisors come to mind: chef Bob Grant at Mary Jemison; Colleen Hopkins, Mary Fran Tiede and Patricia Hoffman at Milne; Cindy Wood at the mail room; Paul Simmons at the fitness center; and chef Deena Kingston at Red Jacket. Thank you for helping us to set goals, working closely with us and always believing in our abilities.

Other difference-makers for us include our graduate student assistant teachers, Molly Jones and Brittany Rauber; all of the professors who welcome us to audit their classes (there are too many to name); our teacher aides, Viki Kellogg and Jen Buchwald; and Elizabeth Hall and Tabitha Buggie-Hunt, who have guided the LIVES Program since it began more than five years ago.

Finally, we’d like to wish all the very best to the “traditional” students with whom we learn and laugh.  You help us a lot, and we’d like to think that you gain something valuable from our diversity. After all, we’re not your average Geneseo students.

But then again, is there even such thing as an “average Geneseo student?” The truth is, we are each extraordinary in our own special way.

Thanks for sharing this journey with us.

 

- The Students of Geneseo’s LIVES Program

Live Green Event focuses on increased sustainability

On Wednesday Feb. 20 Geneseo celebrated its fifth annual Live Green Event with an expo in the College Union Ballroom. There were several departments, student groups and environmental organizations that had displays and planned activities designed to generate increased awareness about sustainability.

Geneseo’s Environmental Impact and Sustainability Task Force is one of the more recent organizations on campus dedicated to environmentalism. Its primary goal is to promote a change in conservation practices at Geneseo as well as waste reduction and the college’s overall ecological footprint.

According to lecturer of sociology and political science Jo Kirk, Geneseo received the green stamp of approval by the Princeton Review for collaborative student efforts to “think green” and for the successful implementation of a number of initiatives on campus.

Among the event co-sponsors was the Geneseo Environmental Organization, which promoted education about composting. GEO also set up a taste test of five different types of water in order to demonstrate their belief that tap water does not have a poor taste and to encourage students to reduce plastic bottle waste by drinking from reusable ones.

EcoHouse presented a display about charity: water, an organization devoted to supplying clean water to women and children in developing nations.

Assistant Residence Director of EcoHouse senior Allison Hoppe spoke about sustainability and environmentalism on campus and said, “It has been something that’s been growing in involvement and popularity throughout the university. The President’s Sustainability Commission demonstrates that there is a commitment by the institution to uphold these standards of maintaining and incorporating environmentally conscious practices into the curriculum.”

Jamie Carestio represented Frack Free Genesee, which is committed to banning hydrofracking in New York, specifically in the eastern Finger Lakes region and the Genesee Valley.

“I think it is important for people to realize that even if you feel removed from this issue, this industry will affect everybody. Nobody is immune from this,” Carestio said.

Representatives from the Geneseo Farmers Market were also present, promoting their campaign to live green and eat local.

The Genesee Valley Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental organization in Geneseo, offered a Bluebell Walk at the Indian Fort Nature Preserve, in addition to several other events, to students. According to its mission statement, the conservancy aims to “protect the habitat, open space and farmland of the Genesee Valley region.”

Senior Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development mentor Maya Shah explained the newest addition to the GOLD certificate options. According to Shah, the jade certificate focuses on environmentalism and is centered on the importance of sustainability issues that affect students’ lives. Shah said the certificate is available for those who are interested in this subject but do not necessarily understand all of the science behind it.

New SUNY fund allocation fails to address actual issues, jeopardizes academic integrity

New SUNY allocation model slippery slope to privatization

I’ve read Maddy Smith’s news article, “SUNY releases enrollment-based Resource Allocation Model,” a few times now, and I am scared. I am frightened that a pattern and trajectory I began to notice when I reported on SUNY budgets in my tenure at Geneseo is more real and threatening than I let myself believe. Within the parameters set by the last half-decade of financial troubles and its “solutions,” is it still possible to envision SUNY as a public institution of truly “higher” education? 

I should start by saying that I see the logic and it seems fair that schools with more students should receive more funding. The analogy isn’t perfect, but if I heard that a public high school with 200 students was receiving the same exact public funding as a high school with 2,000 students, I’d be upset at the inequality between funding per student. 

There are many things that trouble me about this allocation model, though. Primarily, I am concerned by the sheer ratio between the number of schools that would see increased funding versus the number of schools that would see decreased funding from this pool of money. 

According to Smith’s article, 11 of the 13 comprehensive colleges, five of the eight technology colleges and one of the four university centers would see decreases in funding. That means that a majority of these schools would each see a loss in resources so that a minority would benefit. I know that actual enrollment figures should balance everything out, but remaining at the institutional level, this solution seems troubling. Why not allow the university centers to charge a rationally higher tuition? Students at Stony Brook, Buffalo, Binghamton and Albany may have to compete with more peers for access to resources, but the resources available at these research institutions are simply greater than the other SUNY schools; perhaps these students should pay a slightly higher tuition?

But to elaborate on what most troubles me: The context in which this allocation model has developed is unacceptable. SUNY students, past and present, should be complaining about this. I look at the aforementioned pattern, the path from the crisis of 2008 and the terrible cuts that followed, the program deactivations not only at Geneseo but at Albany and elsewhere as well, the consolidations of multiple campuses under single college presidents, and the recent reallocation of funding, and I see a trajectory toward the privatization of higher education. And that scares me beyond belief. 

State support cannot exist in a crippling, debilitating context in which public higher education should be forced to make these kinds of decisions. This is the projected loss of SUNY 2020: Since schools can raise their tuition to close budget gaps, the state doesn’t feel the same contractual obligation to fund them. And if resource allocation is 87 percent based on enrollment, then at a college like Geneseo where enrollment isn’t going to increase at a rate comparable to rising rational tuition, students will inevitably wind up paying more tuition while their school sees less resources from the state – based on SUNY’s own rules. 

If you want to kill a community but don’t want to dirty your own hands, sometimes it’s best to make conditions so unbearable that the community destroys itself.

- Jesse Goldberg, Class of 2012