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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


“Unified, Organized and Pissed Off” Students Rally Against Budget Cuts and Tuition Hikes

Students marched through campus to a bus waiting to take them to the CEWIT building to interrupt a SUNY Research and Innovation Symposium where Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. were in attendance. (Kenneth Ho / The Statesman)

Riled up students congregated outside the Student Activities Center and the CEWIT buildings Wednesday, waving neon colored signs rallying against budget cuts, tuition hikes and a myriad of other issues the SUNY system is facing.

Senior Mike Carley and about 20 other students recognized the problems SUNY is facing and planned the protest.   Members from the Social Justice Alliance, College Democrats and Free Thinkers also participated.

Nick Eaton, dubbed “Chief Rebel Rouser” by some protestors, addressed the growing crowd of 50 or so students.

“We are unified, organized and pissed off,” he said.

According to Dan Melucci, associate vice president for Strategy, Planning and Analysis, the university is facing a budget gap more than $30 million for the year starting August 2010, if there is not adequate state tax support, union concessions or tuition increases.

“We’d all opt for more tax support but in this fiscal environment that is probably unrealistic,” he said.  “The unions don’t seem willing to budge off a 5 percent raise in the last year of their contract.  That only leaves tuition increases.  We’d like to do that in as rational a way as possible.”

In January, Gov. David A. Paterson proposed The Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, which would allow SUNY schools to determine their own tuition.  SUNY Chancellor  Nancy Zimpher and President Samuel Stanley support the act.

Kevin Young, a Ph. D. history student, believes that the act should be discussed in the SUNY community and in an open and honest debate.

“The burden of sustaining SUNY should not be on the students,” he said with a megaphone in his hand.  “The state has that responsibility.”

Jeffrey Akita, former president of the Undergraduate Student Government, preached to the students and initiated them to chant, “We must act now!”

“We must take back what is rightfully ours.” he bellowed.

Following the speeches, the group marched down the academic mall to the administration building and boarded a bus to the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology, or CEWIT, building, where Zimpher and Stanley were meeting for a SUNY Research and Innovation Symposium.

After a brief discussion between campus police and Jim McAsey, organizing director for the Research Assistant Union, the two busloads of students formed a picket line behind police barriers, or what one student referred to as a “free speech cage,” and awaited Stanley to give him a letter expressing their concerns.

Members of the Research Assistant Union were also present, expressing their opposition against the Research Foundation, who they are barganning with for a fair contract.

“SUNY is a victim of cuts because it allows it to be,” a student read aloud on the crowded bus.

Students involved with the rally, seemed pleased with the turnout and those who boarded the bus to get back to campus in time for their 2:20 classes seemed to think that their voices were heard.

“The administration is coming out as a voice, accepting budget cuts as an inevitable solution,” Carley said.  “They should be a voice for us.”

Jennifer Long contributed reporting to this story.

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