On Thursday, Oct. 26, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) student government held their first town hall of the semester to discuss events and issues facing the school. The event was presided over by various committee heads in CLAS, among them Speaker of the Assembly Zunera Ahmed and CLAS President Nissim Said.
They began the meeting by reminding people to fill out letters being handed out to be sent to New York Senators Schumer and Gillibrand in defense of the DACA program. They ran off a list of upcoming events, including puppy therapy for early December, kindness day, and an outreach fair student government has been pushing.
They then began taking questions from the audience, beginning with a question about Brooklyn College’s “Participatory Budgeting” program. “PB” is a democratic format allowing BC students to vote for where a portion of their budget should be allocated in terms of structural use. Last year CLAS allocated money for water bottle refill stations on campus. This year CLAS decided to expand the program and allow the allocation for $30,000. The accepting of proposals have begun and voting will occur in March.
CLAS then fielded a question from Brooklyn College student and percussionist Allan Randall about the state of the music conservatory. As was covered in our Oct. 3 issue, Randall became a campus celebrity when he protested the poor quality of the practice spaces in Roosevelt and Whitman Hall by playing his marimba on the quad.
The answer from CLAS representatives was one reiterated over the entire meeting, that of “funding”, or the lack thereof.
“Every question could be answered by money,” said President Said. CUNY is underfunded as it is, and with a large portion of the budget heading to human capital for faculty and school staff, it is hard to allocate funds for everything in regards to the school and students, and when money is available they go to more pressing emergency issues such as structural damage.
This common problem of funding was revisited several times over the course of the meeting. A student asked a question about the inconsistencies in ID checks by security officers when entering parts of campus, a problem that could be explained at least in part by lack of funding and staff. The suggestion of setting up ID scanners at gates or inside buildings was proposed, and the answer still stood… “we don’t have the money.”
Another question was asked about increasing the Internet bandwidth to fix many of the Wi-Fi issues around campus, to which once again the President grabbed the mic and responded “funding”, met with laughter from the crowd. Wi-Fi is very expensive, they explained, and with the elderly state of many BC buildings, installation would be a challenge.
The other major theme of the town hall was CLAS’ cooperation with outside parties to work on issues and how such communication could be established. CLAS advertised their occasional meetings to Albany for students to go lobby state officials for needed resources and problem fixes. They also discussed their overall continuing effort to join the various clubs and organizations together in a forum that would allow everyone across campus to communicate issues and work towards positive change on campus.
They state there is no perfect system to reaching students and elaborating on the issues. Although CLAS commonly uses Facebook and other social media for student outreach, they are looking for in-depth ways to communicate with the student body.