Originally published in The Statesman (Feb. 25, 2009)
Joined by the Stony Brook marching band, dancers, and gospel choir, the Undergraduate Student Government riled up students Wednesday in hopes of sending a message to Albany: Stony Brook University can’t handle more cuts.
The Academic Mall seethed with more than 250 of such students who denounced the university’s budget reductions.
Over the past few months there has been an influx of budget cuts to the SUNY system, causing class sizes to rise, tuition to hike and a campus-wide hiring freeze to be implemented. Moreover, 90 percent of that money is not going back into the SUNY system, but is going to fix the state’s deficit.
“90 percent is not only no good, it’s intolerable,” USG senator Kevin Brady said. “90 percent used to mean something different here, the turnout in the last election. Albany better listen up because we are going to show them what 90 percent can do, and then some.”
Dr. Norman Goodman, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook, Senator John J. Flanagan and other speakers urged all in attendance to write letters to Gov. David Paterson and other Albany senators.
“It is important to write a letter, to call, and to tell them your story, not the numbers but what those numbers mean to you,” Goodman said. “You need to do your part, and you need to do it now.”
“They need to hear from you personally, they need to hear from you frequently, and they need to hear from you now,” he said.
“I don’t work for the governor. I don’t work for the legislature. I work for you,” said an energetic Flanagan. “You are an investment. You are not an ATM.” Flanagan promised that he would not vote for any bills that would take money from the students.
“You need to call, you need to write, you need to persevere, you need to be a pain in the butt,” said Flanagan, reiterating the need for students to participate and let their voices be heard.
The highlight and more unconventional aspect of the rally came when Jeffery Akita, president of the USG, called Paterson’s office, leaving the message, “Budget cuts have to go,” roared by an angry, but inspired, crowd. He then ended the message with “Please respond, ’cause we are coming to Albany March 3.”
In an address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, President Barack Obama expressed the importance of education.
“Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country,” he said.
At Stony Brook, Obama’s words ring loud and clear to these students who will not take cuts lying down.