Student Lobby Day Faces Future Challenges
WCC students meet with Gary Pretlow regarding budget concerns. /Garrison Marschner
Student lobby day is meant to be a time when SUNY students meet with their representatives in their Albany offices, however, on Wednesday, Feb. 28th, WCC students met with nearly as many staffers as actual representatives.
When someone thinks of lobbying, they usually imagine business types bribing politicians with money to get laws passed to the benefit private organizations. This was nearly the opposite as students asked for money to benefit their public schools, which raises the question of how effective a bunch of students are in begging for money.
Arguably its effectiveness comes from these politicians having a human face to what is a financial issue. The effectiveness of this method hinges on the representatives actually being the ones who hear these students talk of their struggles and stories. So when the politicians miss the meetings and only receive notes from their interns, the impact is probably lessened.
The absence of representatives was a common occurrence that day as many of the representatives were preoccupied with a “Hostile Amendment” which was proposed that day regarding gun control laws. It is of course a rare occurrence that all state representatives are gathered in one place, so this political occurrence was not surprising, especially considering that the Florida shooting was recent at the time.
Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who had to miss the initially scheduled meeting, actually made it a point to make time to meet with the WCC group, though the meeting with the Senator herself was brief as she came in late. Most of the time was spent with a couple of her staffers. Cousins made enough time to hear a few stories from the WCC students.
“I love what you (WCC) do,” said Cousins.
“We know you’ve always supported the college,” said Rosemarie Serrano, Performing arts curriculum chair, who organized and led the WCC students.
WCC seems to have support in Albany. Although no promises can be made about budget outcomes, people like Assemblymen Sevin Otis of the 91st and Gary Pretlow of Mt. Vernon were available for their full meeting time.
They listened to stories from most of the students about what their education meant to them.
“I’m a big supporter of education and higher education,” said Otis. “I am there to support your needs.”
Gary Pretlow from Mt. Vernon said he always advocated for education and is a big supporter of community colleges. “It’s a tough budget year,” said Pretlow and acknowledged the difficulties with this fiscal year.
While the vocal support of representatives is appreciated, it makes one wonder how much you can depend on words. It also makes one think about whether it is effective to speak to already known supporters of the SUNY schools as they may not be the ones who need convincing.
With a massive deficit, and pressure form federal forces, SUNYs may see some tough times ahead. New York State has a massive public school system and many other issues to address. Student Lobby Day may be as crucial as ever. Though it can be disheartening to see many representatives failing to make their appointments.
However, what was interesting was how many staffers were themselves SUNY students. Perhaps a new precedent will be set with a new generation of politicians.