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OPINION: Dear Student Association: An Open-Ended Letter to SA and the UAlbany Campus

By Dylan Klein | May 6 , 2024

University at Albany Student Association (SA), you’ve always been the constant in my years here at UAlbany. In my first term, you kept me up until 6 a.m. conducting meetings. In my second term, you made me feel burnt out when I would get home after every meeting. In my third term, you began to shock me with how little people wanted to be involved. In my fourth term, you had me worried about the direction and the future of this organization.

But there were always bright points.

Jalen Rose and Amelia Crawford: you two have inspired me to continue the fight. Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Michael Christakis: I always knew that if I had an issue, it was something I could come to you for help with, and that is something I cannot thank you for enough. Director Erica Strand, we came up together and you did incredible things with your position and I am proud. 

When I first arrived on campus, the Senate was filled with people who saw their position as a means to an end, a resume builder for themselves. These people weren’t using their position to advocate for change on campus and they weren’t representing those who voted them in. They even neglected to pay attention to the ongoing impeachment proceedings against a former SA President for the misuse of an SA credit card. Although throughout my experience in this body, involvement gradually got better, until recently where I have now seen Senators who come with headphones on and don’t pay attention, or even worse, stop showing up entirely. 

I will never forget the weeks leading up to my first-ever Senate meeting as an elected Senator. It was during COVID in the fall of 2020 and Dr. Christakis attended the meeting. During this meeting, I decided to make a public comment about a rumor I had heard about the alleged misreporting of COVID cases on campus. Despite Dr. Christakis disagreeing with this rumor, new information released by the university the very next day showed a concerning rise in cases. 

The following day, I called Dr. Christakis out on X, formerly known as Twitter. I called him a liar. Little did I know that I would come to develop a great and very candid personal and professional relationship with Dr. Christakis. Usually, when you call someone you don’t know a liar, they aren’t going to like you, much less help champion some of your projects, but this is the magic of SA.

The SA has always been the one place where students on this campus can afford to be outspoken and yell at both the university administration and often each other. A room that used to be full however, is now suffering from a number of empty seats after the spring general election. 

How did this happen? Is it a lack of individuals willing to participate? Are incoming freshman classes becoming fundamentally less and less involved? Or does the SA have a serious problem on its hands if it’s not addressed? In my opinion, it’s none of the above.

For years, the SA was the pinnacle of drama on campus. Student groups argued over money for their organizations, and the Senate consistently had some internal problems, and much more. But those times are gone and the SA Senate is essentially 25 people who get together and almost exclusively pass the dwindling budget allocated to clubs or appropriation legislation.

Which is why we need a change. Every single time a new set of Senators has been sworn in, I echo the same statement I have for the past four years: This body and organization gives you the tools and platform to advocate directly for what you want on this campus. 

In the 2021-2022 legislative session, the Senate secured over $10 million in funding for housing upgrades on campus through a bill I, and former-Senator Clint Mohammed, advanced called the Campus Housing Equality Act. That same year we also advocated for legislation which brought attention back to the upkeep of green spaces on campus, called the Courtyard Beautification Act. The year before that, we passed the Stop Increases to Fees and Tuition (SIFT) act, which helped secure a three-year tuition freeze from the State Legislature for all State University of New York and City University of New York schools.

These are not the only pieces of legislation the Senate has passed: We acquired free printing for students, more electronic vehicle superchargers on campus, championed Title IX reform, advocated for religious holidays such as Ramadan, Holi, and Rosh Hashanah to be recognized as such within our academic schedule, secured parking for freshmen, and most of all, led the campus community through COVID when leadership was absent.

My time in the SA was certainly one filled with twists and turns. I made the jump to run for President in 2022 and lost, but I never gave up the fight, and served an additional two terms in the Senate because we had work to do. I believe that SA has the potential to do great things on this campus, students only have to find the motivation and grit to work for it.

It has been an absolute honor to serve as one of the few elected Socialists within SA, and I plan to continue pushing Socialist policies in my career beyond UAlbany. Finally, I hope more students decide to throw their skin in the game and run for the SA Senate.


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