By Henry Fisher | February 27, 2023
Members of the Student Association sitting at tables with advocates gathered within and around the senate floor.
Photo Credit: Henry Fisher / The ASP
Over 100 students gathered at this week's Student Association (SA) Senate session, advocating for Title IX victims on campus. $5,214.54 was also allocated this week to clubs, representing nearly half of the recent line transfer.
The advocates, largely led by Laila Siddiqui and Erin Odell, gathered to support their friend who experienced sexual assault on campus and went through the Title IX process. Their goal is to push for change at the University at Albany, especially within the Equity and Compliance office.
“When I found out what happened to her, my heart shattered,” Siddiqui said. “...she’s so visibly traumatized from what happened to her, and there are still people laughing at her.”
Odell discussed how their friend was also having difficulties getting a room change this semester.
“We’re not asking for radical change, we’re trying to make our friend feel safe in this place of education,” Odell said.
Helen Li, a former sexual harassment prevention ambassador at UAlbany’s now-defunct advocacy center, which is no longer in operation, urged senators to push for a new advocacy center. This is something that SA is currently working on, with a bill calling for such a center passing in the student senate recently.
“If [someone who experiences a Title IX incident] choose[s] not to go through with the Title IX office, there are no other resources for them,” Li said.
“I refuse to let this happen to my friend and I refuse to let this happen to anyone else on campus,” Siddiqui said. “...I will never get justice, but my friend and others on campus can.”
Senator Selwa Khan, who had been a sponsor of the recent Title IX legislation echoed her previous sentiments, saying, “we cannot have survivors fall through the cracks.”
Other members of SA acknowledged the advocates, responding with promises of potential change.
“Your voice has been heard, and we are bringing it over to the people with power over these offices,” Vice President Ciarra Medrano said.
“Your presence here is more than anything we can do as a Student Association,” Senator Erin McGrath said. “...why would we have the seal of approval from the 50 elected officials when we could have the seal of approval of the 200 people in this room right now?”
Many senators also pushed for the advocates to continue to advocate beyond the Student Association, and to advocate for other issues they may care about on campus.
“Don’t let this be the last time you show up for student issues. The work starts here, it doesn’t stop here,” Vice Chair Jalen Miller said.
“Unfortunately problems aren’t solved in a boardroom,” Senator McGrath said.
“We need serious change on campus, and it won’t happen overnight,” Senator Dylan Klein said. “...what else can we do [for you]? What do you guys want to see us advocate for? Every single person who represents a living area holds a town hall. I encourage you to attend those, and let us know what you want to change.”
With this week’s appropriations bills, $5,214.54 was also given away to campus clubs – nearly half of the recent line transfer of $10,750. Chess Club ($1,400), Zeta Phi Beta ($2,057.29), Japanese Student Association ($795.97), UAlbany Girl Gains ($399.98), Weightlifting Club ($400), and the Video Games Club ($161.30) all received funding this week.
“When you’re not looking at the bills and just approving, it goes quickly,” Chair of the Committee on Appropriations Jalen Rose said.
Rose also discussed an error on the last budgeting sheet where the supplemental budget line’s total was written as $56,000 and not $54,000, leading to a $2,000 deficit. The recent line transfer filled that deficit.
A bill written by the Director of Health and Sustainability, Erica Strand, (sponsored by Senator Rose) made it to the floor this week. It advocated for a reduction in the use of plastic on campus, mostly in vending machines. Such a change had already been discussed with the university and would include replacing plastic containers with more eco-friendly glass or aluminum containers.
James Cuddy, a recently appointed associate justice who helped work on the bill, assured senators that such a change “should not affect the price by any means.”
As for the upcoming elections, the self-nomination period opens Feb. 27, and closes March 6.
*Correction 3/9/2023: The perpetrator was mis-stated to have known where the victim lived.