Because Students Have a Voice Doesn’t Mean Anyone Has to Listen
By Anthony Ferrara
I recently attended a meeting that involved students and professors alike in one of the lecture rooms in the middle of building 1P. It was a meeting that was held in regards to having a vote on the new edition of the Student Bill of Rights that was drawn up by the student government here at the college.
To give a little background, this bill has been going back and forth between the students and professors for about four years, without anything being passed. I noticed the restlessness coming from the students — most of which sat in the first few rows — immediately.
The professors were also restless, but in a different way. They were ready to get out of there. They had been sitting in on another meeting before this one and it was already overlapping into the student’s time.
When it finally came time for the bill to be brought to attention, the president of student government approached the front of the room to explain to the audience what changes were being proposed.
The whole idea was that students would sacrifice multiple rights to the professor and take “more responsibility” in their right to be a student at the college.
However, the specifics of the bill is not really what I’m trying to get at here. Although the bill was presented magnificently by the student government’s leader, I watched as the majority of the professors yawned through his explanation of the document.
As soon as the bill was done being presented the floor was opened up for any questions that anybody had — and these questions would quite obviously be directed at the young man at the podium.
He was instantly met with a vicious reciprocation of heated questions mocking the new bill’s credibility and purpose. The first professor stood up and asked why he should agree to something that does nothing but reword and confuse all of the rules that he has come to learn, know, and follow as a CUNY professor. “It’s confusing to me,” he said.
The next professor, a woman sitting across the room from me, stood up and asked the overall significance of even voting on the bill.
“It just sounds like you guys want to get something passed,” she muttered at the president. These remarks were met with a conspicuous mumbled response from the other members of student government.
The president stood firm at the head of the podium and addressed both of these professors in a clear and calm manner — one that insinuated that he was an extremely good public speaker, but not much else as it pertains to the actual document.
What the first two professors had questioned was now being echoed by other professors throughout the room, whether directly at the president or amongst themselves in the seats that they were in. The whole thing just didn’t seem to be as serious as I’d imagined it would be.
Throughout all of this back and forth, a couple of professors spoke up in defense of the students, although most of what the defense was was admiration for the student government to attempt something in general, not necessarily the specifics of what they were attempting.
They praised the students for using their collective voice to try to make a change, but were hardly praising the bill itself.
Eventually the mediator of this whole meeting would step in to put the bill to a vote. It was at this time that another person — the mediator’s assistant — ran up to where the mediator was speaking at the podium to tell him that they had run out of time.
There was a class that was starting in the room that we were in in five minutes and that the vote for the bill would need to be withheld until the next meeting — which was over a month away.
The students vociferously and loudly denounced this ruling as the professors began to get up and file out of the room as quickly as they could.
The president of the student government stood dejected in disapproval at the head of the room asking the mediator how he could let another delay happen, especially after their time to present was already cut into. It was subdued chaos.
As I left, I conversed with student Michelle Hernandez, who had also attended the meeting, and who is a prospective member of the student government. I asked her quite simply if she was angry.
Her response was an interesting one. “I’m not mad,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “They’re going to pass something sooner or later.”
Here’s the thing. I disagree with Michelle. I don’t think that the professors are going to agree to pass a bill that holds no significance whatsoever.
I don’t believe that anybody is going to pass a bill that does not do anything to challenge any of the policies that are in place in the CUNY system.
The only way that we can attain change is by actually fighting for it. To merely pass a bill for the sake of passing a bill is not enough.