Planned Higher Education Lobby Day Trip to Albany Canceled
Students planning on traveling to Albany on March 2 for Higher Education Lobby Day were surprised when the trip was cancelled on short notice.
Meetings were arranged with state legislators to voice the concerns of the student body and college community.
“It was incredibly disappointing that the Student Government Association (SGA) decided to not approve the funding at the last minute,” Professor Rosemary Serrano said. “I spent weeks planning the trip and scheduling the appointments with the 13 State Senators and Assembly members that represent WCC students. It makes the college look bad to cancel appointments at the last minute.”
The trip which would have been paid for by SGA was called off when the estimate of the bus price exceeded initial expectations.
“The Student Government Association would first and foremost like to apologize for the lack of transportation that prevented the trip up to Albany for the Annual Lobby Day,” SGA President Henry Gulergun said in a press release. “Unfortunately, due to late notice, lack of funds, and lack of transportation, our student activists were unable to make it to the capital this year.”
At the time of the cancellation students had already signed up for the trip and were expecting to be able to represent WCC to government officials along with other SUNY schools participating in the lobby day.
“We had reserved a bus for our 22 student lobbyists to travel to Albany. I had been given indications that the SGA understood the importance of the trip, especially since the SGA President, Henry, went on the trip last year,” Serrano said. “The SGA met last Friday, and decided that the money for the bus was too much for a single day trip.”
Vans were available, but due to time constraints drivers could not be found. WCC implements a travel restriction on students when using their own form of transportation and they were unable to carpool while still officially representing WCC as a group.
“SGA did not have the funds to provide a bus to take the students to Albany. Within the week before the trip, WCC vans were reserved to drive the students up to Albany. Unfortunately, these vans cannot take the students anywhere without drivers, and those were very hard to come across last minute,” Gulergun said. “It was due to the lack of drivers to drive the vans that transportation was unavailable to Professor Serrano and the group of student activists.”
Henry Gulergun expressed his disappointment that the trip had to be cancelled but without drivers and no budget for bus hire there was no other option left.
“I was heartbroken that we couldn’t go, 90% of this job is advocating for other students, that’s what I do every day. It’s not even a question of we don’t care we just don’t have the funding,” Gulergun said. “I went on that trip last year and I thought its excellent and I think this year is super important with the Excelsior Scholarships being part of the budget process now which could be huge and impact thousands of New York State students and make their dreams of going to college true.”
The Excelsior Scholarship was proposed by Governor Cuomo in January and will allow hundreds of thousands of eligible students to attend NY state public universities tuition-free.
Serrano doesn’t believe the SGA’s reason for cancelling the trip is adequate, as planning has taken place since December. The trip would have required a relatively small portion of the SGA budget.
“I began speaking to SGA about this trip in September, and sent in several requests for meetings. We met in December, and they gave me the impression they would approve it. Since the bus is transporting student lobbyists, it should be paid for by the SGA,” Serrano said. “Again, we’re asking for less than .5% of their entire budget to be able to send student lobbyists to help get more funding for tuition and financial aid.”
The amount of money asked for the trip seems like a small price to pay for the impact the lobby day could have had for students, but the budget of the academic year was already created in advance.
“[Professor Serrano] says the cost of the trip would only account for 1% of the student government budget,” Gulergun said. “What she doesn’t understand is that [at] the beginning of the year…the student government has $300,000, and it looks like a lot, but what a lot of people seem to forget is that most of that money [is allocated] to all the clubs.”
Having a voice not only on campus but to elected officials is an important part of the political process, and the feeling that a great opportunity for students was missed was shared.
“This was not a trip that was going to benefit only the students that were going, but all WCC students that pay tuition and get financial aid. I’m going to request that the SGA have this as part of their budget going into next year, and every year,” said Serrano.
Henry Gulergun wants to ensure an opportunity like this will not be lost to WCC students in the coming years.
“I don’t want to deny future students from going on this event because this is a very important event advocating is one of my top priorities and I think it should be every student’s priority because this is our lives—it’s our futures,” Gulergun said. “I’m going to do everything I can now until May when I leave office that something’s in place, that this can definitely be ensured for the next years to come.”