By Fanny Belaud | October 23, 2023
Dr. Christakis and SA members
Photo Credit: Maceo Foster / ASP
During the University at Albany’s Student Association (SA) meeting this past Wednesday, Oct. 18, many students voiced concerns about an email sent out by UAlbany in regard to the current conflict occurring in the Middle East. Many Senators also expressed continuous concern over the merger of the Latin American and Caribbean (LACS) studies and the African American Studies (AFS) departments.
Caleb Sapp, the Director of Marketing and Programming, as well as SA President Jalen Rose announced during the Campus Climate Discussion that they attended a Town Hall meeting about the merger hosted by Dean Jeanette Altaribba and Professor Walter E. Little, the chair of both LACS and AFS.
“The meeting was a disappointment and they provided no information on what a post-merger world looks like,” Sapp said.
Sapp also announced that he has been in contact with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Puerto Rican Student Association organizations to host a protest in front of the University Hall to call on Provost Carol Kim to address the issue.
“They can’t even recall all of the previous mergers by the University that failed at their goal,” Sapp said, “This behavior from the provost and the lack of action from the body of the university and helping these departments for years is a fraud on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion principles that this university prides itself on.”
Senator Selwa Khan took the floor amongst a few other members of the Senate to speak about the email sent out on Oct. 11 by Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Christakis about the Israel-Palestine conflict. After speaking about this during last week’s senate meeting Senator Khan wanted to bring this topic up again as Dr. Christakis was present.
“Over 1,000 [as of Oct. 21, that number has jumped to 1,500, according to Reuters] children in Palestine have been killed. That’s not including men and women. That’s not including the injured, unhoused, or people who are in the West Bank. This is a humanitarian crisis. And it’s time that we treat it as such, especially when we have such an underserved Arab population on this campus,” Senator Khan said.
There were some rumors that a professor had briefed university officials prior to the email being sent out, but this was dispelled by Dr. Christakis.
“Our priority really was to try to get resources which I think are important to provide to our students, particularly students who are struggling themselves or have family and friends that are suffering, but I do understand how some of the nuances of the language may not have hit the right mark, and I am sorry about that,” Dr. Christakis said. “We tried as best as we could, and as I was saying to some of you, I don’t have a speechwriter, I write them myself and I try to do as much research and consultation with people as I can, but I was also pressed with time as we were trying to get something out as soon as we could before students came back to campus.”
Concerns regarding an article written by ASP reporter Mattie Fitzpatrick concerning Professor Renee Overdyke’s tenure as a professor at the university were also brought up by Senator Jeremy Zheng, the chair of the Committee on Constituent Relations for SA.
“I am just disappointed with the university’s decision to dismiss Professor Overdyke especially when what she did was well within her First Amendment rights. She has also been here for a while and has obtained a reputation of being a well-respected professor here on campus.”
Christakis spoke about the situation stating that since this is a personnel matter it cannot be commented on publicly and he doesn’t have the details pertaining to the decision as that is under the purview of Student Affairs.
Overdyke was charged with second-degree governmental obstruction, resisting arrest, and disturbance of a lawful assembly. All of the charges were dropped by the judge overseeing the case.
The body also considered two bills, the Senate Session Code of Conduct Reformation Act, and the Rules Investigatory Powers and Procedures Act (RIPP). Both of these were tabled indefinitely over many Senators' concerns that the bill had near unilateral power to remove Senators for various reasons including bylaw violations or a failure to execute prescribed duties, as well as ethical conduct during meetings.
SA took up five bills allocating supplemental and new and unfunded funding to different student organizations. The Muslim Student Association (MSA), the National Congress of Black Women, and the Albany Sports Business Organization each received $3,000. The Student Anime Organization received $449.66, and $177.92 was given to the Artistic Room to Create Organization.
The first two pieces of legislation presented were staff appointments for Clerk (Tenzin Yingsal) and Secretary (Akhenaton Lazarre), positions which were both passed unanimously.
SA also proposed two impeachment requests for Senator Khan and Senator Jenn Alonso for attendance purposes. Both impeachment requests were tabled indefinitely after attendance guidelines were updated. Senator Marc Padilla resigned his seat as Senator.
Editorial Note (Nov. 9, 2023): The name of the professor at the center of the rumors has since been removed. The ASP apologizes for this editorial oversight.