Why would that matter?
Several blocks further down from our campus, on September 23rd, a group of students from New York University handed a petition to the School President, asking for student representation on the Board of Trustees.
The group, known as Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM), is a fusion of two social activist groups. Last year’s campaign “Fight for 15”, demanding work-study students to be paid $15/hour, was a big success. The Manhattan Globe talked with one of the movement’s organizers, Kendra Prat.
“What we realized through last year’s campaign was that there is so much power within the student body but our voice is not being reflected in the university structure. So, the petition drop can be a symbolic move of getting the student body to realize that we are not represented, we are not supported and our student needs are not being looked after” said Kendra.
Based on what other colleges have done across the country “SLAM believes students joining the Board of Trustees would help ensure transparency in the finances, especially in NYU whose Board is full of corporate, Wall Street people. The Senate is not a place where a lot of actual change can happen” according to Kendra.
On our school’s end, Adlina Anthony, President of the Student Government Association, believes things at NYIT work in a different way but always in the benefit of students.
“We never really had that interaction with the Board of Trustees; we didn’t actually need to; that’s what we have the SGA for.”, Adlina told the MG. “In terms of feedback, students come to the open meetings every Friday and they address their concerns. They’re very forthcoming about it. We want to engage them more in the “collegiate experience”; that’s our vision”.
According to Adlina, “the Senate, in which SGA has a say as well, has been doing a great job. The professors are helpful. All you have to do is ask them a question.”
“That is something we considered in SLAM”, Kendra would argue, “that a student Trustee might be seen as another member of the University Senate, as another part of a superficial relationship. But most of the time, the Board of Trustees has already decided what’s going on and the Senate doesn’t actually participate in the conversation.”
For Adlina “it’s more of the culture of asking questions. It’s actually when you take the initiative to make that happen. We try to get that more prominent here. Our job is to make sure that these things that we have work and all issues are extended towards the faculty and the university. So, students trust the process just knowing that the student leadership is there.”
When asked how people in SLAM would feel if they saw other universities following their example, Kendra replied “ecstatic, but not surprised, because that is what should be happening; Berkeley University of California has had a student on the Board for 35 years already; this is not a new idea. So, when campuses are inspired by each other, then we create a society that is more engaged.”
In SLAM we use this metaphor a lot; we have this seesaw with the university at the bottom and the students on top. The University is at the bottom because it represents money. If we want to reverse this and create equality with the university, we have to realize that we are big in numbers. The thing is though that the seesaw doesn’t shift unless we all jump on this together.”