By Jalen Miller, Vice Chair of the UAlbany Student Association Senate | March 6, 2023
MYSKANIA in 1917 from the yearbook, The Pedagogue
Photo Credit: UAlbany Magazine
University at Albany is old, and its student government is along with it. Starting as the New York State Normal School in 1844, with nearly thirty students and four faculty in an abandoned railroad depot on State Street in the heart of downtown. The crown jewel of Governor Rockefeller’s formation of a statewide public university system, this University has a rich and celebrated history. A forgotten, or at least a less wholly celebrated history running tangentially to that of the University is the one of its Student Association. As the current Vice Chair of the UAlbany Student Association and an avid lover of history, I argue that looking to and learning from our association’s past can help us sustain it.
Minerva, guardian of justice and students in the school’s halls:
Thanking and crediting the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives for their stewardship of our archival and historical documents, here's a little background of the UAlbany Student Association. As it exists and operates now, the Student Association dates back to 1921. An early UAlbany President, Dr. William J. Milne, formally rejected a student petition to form a student government, commenting, "There is no place in this institution for the association and activities contemplated in this petition.” A flat rejection of the principle of shared governance and the importance of students’ voices in their education. After Milne’s departure, President A.R. Brubacher took a more favorable attitude toward forming a student government. Out of this Presidential approval, Myskania, the founding organization of the Student Association as we know it, was born. Its name derived from a secret code made by the student founders in Latin, Minerva iustidia studien que ad nostraI in alia, very roughly translating to “Minerva (the Roman Goddess of Wisdom and UAlbany’s enduring symbol), guardian of justice and students in the school’s halls.”
Over 100 years ago, the Student Association's original purpose, stated in its 1921 constitution, was "the management of all matters of student interest not academic in nature."
The 2022-23 UAlbany Student Association, pictured at the end of the Fall Semester
Photo Credit: Jalen Rose
More than 100 years later, the Student Association has changed in many ways, in its leadership and the student groups we oversee, but the purpose has remained virtually the same
I am proud to serve in a historic, diverse Student Association administration. With a break in tradition from the original members of Myskania, our association officers represent various identities of race, gender, and sexual orientation. If the history of the Student Association can tell us anything, it’s that shared governance, and student autonomy are principles that need remembering. Forgetting means giving up our power, our voice.
I have seen and have been heartened in recent weeks by the heightened level of student engagement on issues impacting students. Attendees reaching the hundreds for an SA Senate meeting means one thing: Students know that the CC Boardroom on Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. is a place for their voices to be heard, always.
Self-nominations for Student Association Elections are open until today at noon. I urge that new, invigorated voices in the undergraduate body, run in this election to inherit the tradition of student governance, in keeping with the foundation of Myskania to manage and represent all matters of student interest.
In a continuing and hopeful everlasting rebellion against Milne’s dismissal of student power, and in the essence of continuing the legacy of Myskania, albeit with a change of demographics, let us have a full Student Association Senate Candidate pool with new voices, fresh ideas, and excited students ready to serve our student groups.