By Randy Martinez
Since the inception of our institution, a student government organization has existed. Today, 70 years later, it is still present, but can you tell?
At colleges and universities around the world, the purpose of a student government or student council is to represent the students’ interests, help address students’ concerns and help students understand their rights and the resources available during their time at the institution. The current Paul Smith’s College Student Government Constitution states “the intent of this organization is to foster a spirit of democratic cooperation among the student body, to coordinate the aims and purposes of the students with those faculty and administration, to promote school pride, to initiate and encourage student activities and to insure an equitable solution of all student problems”.
As Senior Class President I want to ensure that before my time is up on campus, I can leave a legacy that not only makes its mark on our institution, but betters the experience of future students. Throughout my time here, I have witnessed, experienced, and been told of pertinent issues throughout our campus. These issues are not being met with thoughtful solutions, resulting in a significantly degraded educational experience. There is no reason for a student on campus to feel that our community is not theirs, or that an issue regarding their education at PSC will not be heard. I have encountered many instances in which a student shared an experience which made them feel it would be better to continue their education elsewhere, rather than continue their uphill battle to merely seek simple solutions.
Students must come together and demand equitable change. The times of believing we are just a product of the organization need to be over. I am here to remind students that we are the consumer. The institution must work to meet our demands. At the moment this concept is foreign, since at times the most basic requirements can be lacking— in the classroom, the dining hall, and in the residence halls. The institution must also work to meet our demands as it is in their best interest to survive. Education is changing form and expanding, the choices that today’s students make have greater implications. If the college does not adapt to meet the needs of a changing student body and changing education system, they will not survive.
When these pressing issues are brought forward, the administration is quick to deflect, often using iterations of the following:
“What you are asking of us is beyond our ability”
“That’s just the way things are”
“If you would like that changed, how about I raise your tuition to do so”
“That issue is present on most campuses across the nation”
“You are telling me this is an issue; how do I really know other students feel this way”
“In order to achieve what you are asking, we must reduce your experience elsewhere on campus”
“What you are asking us is outside our budget, we simply cannot afford that”
It’s no secret that all things have a cost. Our campus is of substantial size. We have to heat, light, and clean all these facilities. Our sports teams have to travel to compete. We have 500+ students that have to be fed three times a day. We receive ridiculous amounts of snow compared to most campuses across the nation that has to be cleaned. The college employs over 200 individuals who have to be compensated. Though the cost of compensation should not be a cause for budgeting concerns, it is no secret that professors and employees at our college are well below national averages. This is just one example of issues that are plaguing our campus and need to be of concern to students. We need to demand that elected officials of our student government be included. We must ensure that those in power are being good stewards of our trust, trust that our forty five thousand dollar a year tuition is worth it. If the employees most critical to our own success are limited by sub-par compensation, how does that reflect on the institution?
Issues like these are a result of our current administration, led by President, Dr. Cathy Dove, who has taken a business approach in managing our college. There is nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day, our college, like most, are businesses. My fear is that our institution is straying away from education as its source of successful business and pushing towards external streams of revenue beyond education. This action is present at other institutions. In order to prosper, an institution does need funds, yet I hold a deep fear for the future of our campus if those in charge continue to act without input or regard of students.
As a member of the Paul Smith’s community, how does this make you feel?
This notion does not sit well. I discovered Paul Smith’s College like many, by chance, through a friend that knew someone who had attended. The shift in practices at our institution is not addressing critical issues for students, climate, or programming. Those that reside on Administrative Hill no longer seem to align themselves with the mission of the college I know and love.
Students, the message I leave you with is: Stand up for your education and hold those in charge accountable. To be heard you do not have to raise your voice, you must start by letting it be heard. If you have an issue and do not understand— ask.
Remember, if our college is taking a strictly business approach, and not rising to meet the needs of the study body, come find us in the student government office- we are here to serve you.