Once again, the SUNY system faces a catastrophic budget cut at the hands of Gov. Paterson. Over $90 million is set to be shaved from an already razor-burned SUNY system, a mid-year cut on a budget that saw $146 million in reductions last year.
Students, faculty and parents should be outraged at the gross lack of value being placed on higher education by Paterson. A call to action is in order.
But what? What action can we take to show the state, or anybody for that matter, that this is an issue we will not tolerate? How do you make someone in power care enough to change their mind?
There have been calls from student governments across the SUNY system to rally against the cuts. What is this, 1969? Without detracting from the cause, student rallies are dead.
When unions and lobbyists have money and influence to sway political power, what incentives are there for Paterson to take heed to a group of poorly organized student protests? Rallies and protests rely on the fact that democracy matters in the minds of politicians. If you have lived in New York for any period of time, you’ll know that just isn’t the status quo in Albany.
Rallies require empathy. Yet as we click to delete the 30th meaningless "call to action" on Facebook, we seem to be developing a thick shell of apathy. Plus, who’s really paying the bills? Students? Not in most cases. When mom and dad front all or part of the bill, it’s tough enough to sign a petition thrown in your face, much less take the time to join an organized protest.
Rallies also have the bad habit of being reactionary, without presenting a solution to the problem. What solution does the Student Association or SUNY Student Assembly have to solve the budget shortfall? Merely pointing out the problem has typically done very little to change the course of history.
New York State is in trouble. Cuts are necessary from somewhere. If it isn’t SUNY, it’s infrastructure, local aid or public safety. Every one of those areas and many more are important and will affect our lives in one way or another. The money has to come from somewhere.
Are these proposed cuts devasting? Absolutely. But in a time of universal suffering from all corners of the budget, it’s time to dig deep and tap the tremendous knowledge present in SUNY to solve the problem rather than complain about it.