Last week Wednesday, May 1st, the officers of the seven student governments were emailed regarding a meeting with the committee conducting an administrative review of SBI (“the University”). The date was set for this Monday, May 5th, at 10AM, with no input from student government leaders, with a meeting following at 11AM for Sub Board I leadership, which the University refused to reschedule.
At this meeting, the University recommended the dissolution of SBI, the student-owned-and-run non-profit corporation that has run without issue for nearly fifty years, and the one place where the seven student governments of the University at Buffalo are united.. The University recommended the elimination of all of SBI’s services, stating they would take over student medical insurance and the pharmacy. They expressed concerns that SBI’s legal advice services, safety shuttle, and off-campus housing could lead to lawsuits against the University, despite SBI’s status as a separate entity from the University. Instead, they stated, the University could replace the safety shuttle with a partnership with Uber or Lyft – less safe for students but safer for the University. The legal advice services will be eliminated, they said, but ISSS could still help with immigration.
Further, they demanded the change of our fiscal agent to the Faculty Student Association – an organization which is made up of, more than any other population, University administration, and which is mired in the recent scandal of Dennis Black’s embezzlement. Their rationale was that SBI was noncompliant with SUNY guidelines because the University does not have a contract with SBI. The University has refused to even negotiate a contract with SBI historically, and at that meeting they again stated they were not interested in pursuing a contract. The GSA does have a contract with SBI, however, and believes that they therefore meet the SUNY guideline of a contractually-recognized campus-affiliated organization. The University further stated that if we chose not to go with FSA by July 1st, and tried to stand behind SBI, our student fees would not be granted to us, but will still be collected. This is also timed with SBI’s legal efforts to reclaim student activity fee money the FSA has been holding for decades (despite the University’s statement that the FSA will be transparent), and comes from a committee made up of 50% FSA board members.
GSA leadership have already been part of conversations with media in our roles as student government leaders and members of the SBI board of directors and will be backing SBI throughout this unethical challenge to SBI’s legitimacy and to student power. The University timed this process, intentionally or carelessly, to coincide with finals, disempowering students by dividing our attention, and asking us to choose between our grades and our rights. We will not make this choice – we will work tirelessly in both areas of our professional lives. Further, they refused any explanation of their refusal to pursue a contract negotiation with SBI or considerations of alternative proposals (such as with organizations not represented heavily on the committee forcing us to change fiscal agents) to us, saying to do so would muddy their presentation. We reject this infantilization and believe we are owed the treatment University administration would want offered to itself. Whatever actions SBI as an organization takes to defend themselves, we proudly support. We are one of seven student governments that the University would choose to separate, and we will stand together.
Your Graduate Student Association Executive Board,
Connor Walters, Vice President
Jessy Coley, President
Josh Joseph, Treasurer