Fourteen York College Students traveled to Albany to lobby members of legislators on behalf of CUNY-Wide Issues. Photo Credit: Alexander Ciceron.
By Ashley Oliver
Fourteen York College student delegates and administration members traveled to Albany earlier this month to attend the New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican and Asian Legislators’ 46th Annual Legislative Caucus Conference to lobby members of the legislature on behalf of CUNY-wide issues.
As part of their advocacy devoted specifically to York College, delegates also emphasized the need to allocate funds to the begin building the proposed Academic Village and Conference Center. In 2015 the New York State Budget granted York $30 million dollars in capital funding towards the building.
But York College President Marcia V. Keizs said although she is thankful for the support, it is not enough to fund the project.
“We need about $350 million dollars to start this project,” said Keizs. “I am delighted that the state legislature has supported this effort. But the company that is building this infrastructure needs a certain amount to start this for the students.”
Keizs added that the building will be an anticipated 162,180 gross square-feet, and will house York’s School of Business and Information Systems. She also promised that the building will host student affinity spaces, enrollment management offices and a state-of-the-art conference center that will be used by the college and local residents.
Delegates also pushed for increased funding for York’s Academic Building. The building requires a complete infrastructural overturn, according to some members of the Student Government Association.
Student Government President Rachelle Antoine said some classrooms are furnished with dysfunctional and noisy air vents and ramshackle ceilings.
“York is a great school and it needs to look like a great school,” said Antoine. “If we can have a more revamped building, it will be a better learning environment for the students and faculty.”
Former York College student Trazana Phillips who also attended the caucus stressed the importance of renovating the building.
“When I went, which was about 20 years ago, the building looked way better than this and students still complained,” said Phillips. “So I can only imagine now how bad it may look to incoming students compared to other institutes. We are in 2017, and York gets the least amount of money in CUNY. The money should be granted. They’re asking for a building and some renovations not dorms like other colleges.”
Distinguished CUNY advocates attended the caucus, including former student Rachael G. Walton and New York State Senator, Leroy Comrie. Comrie and Walton have attended several rallies to fight against tuition hikes and other financial barriers that may negatively impact CUNY students.
Although York had the support of other delegates, New York State Assemblywoman Vivian Cook said York needs to focus on internal factors instead of a building.
“Before you guys come begging me for just $350 million, start begging the people you guys house in your school for more money,” said Cook. “York needs to start looking at the demographic first. Stop looking at long term goals and try to fix the short ones first. Start asking your parents to get more involved. Before having fancy, executive breakfasts, start thinking about how to save that to get the $350 million. Your president came to me last week asking for that pocket change, and I’ll tell her what I told you. No.”
Cook is referring to the trip President Keizs and Assistant Administrator Earl Simmons took to Albany on Valentine’s Day to advocate for the Academic Village.
While York delegates plan to return to the capital next month to lobby again, York Social Work major, Namou Sylla, said it is a waste of time.
“I know the speakers said we should fight until hell freezes over, but we seem to be frozen already,” said Sylla, who also attended the caucus.