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My Biggest Regrets as CLAS President & A Call to Action

By Nissim Said, president of CLAS Student Government

Published: February 21st, 2018

A human fault we all share is a kindness to history. We etch from our minds all our negative experiences and only remember our successes. Psychology calls this the survivorship bias. A belief that those who succeeded followed certain paradigms that anyone could follow. Simply following the rules and avoiding the mistakes is a blueprint for success. A multi-million-dollar self-help industry filled with gurus repeating the same advice we’ve heard since language was developed.

I’d like to be remembered for my faults just as my successes. I am not an infallible leader. I am only human, with a list of mistakes as long as my achievements.

My biggest regret is my hot-headed belief of the ‘we vs them.’ The clash of student leaders with faculty and administrators. As students in a crumbling system of higher education under constant attack by politicians, we are always looking for the catalyst of our problems. A person to blame and someone to fight. It’s a narrative we cling to even in the face of truth.

We cling to this belief that the source of our problems lies in our leadership as an institution. A grandiose plot of deceit and malfeasance. Our administrators and faculty are the source of our frustration. Surely, if we were in their shoes, we could change everything we have issue with. The truth could not be more different.

We are all on the same team. From the very top to the very bottom. We are all victims of a political landscape that uses our education as gambling chips in furthering their own agenda. We have different ideologies and needs, sure, but we can understand the hardships we all share.

Our budget cuts affect us all. Our corrupted board of trustees with significant influence of politicians cannot truly advocate for the collective us. Not because of the contents of their character but because they are politically mandated to follow instruction or suffer from political retribution.

If I can warn the next generation of student leaders and passionate students, it is to realize the administrators and faculty are not the enemy. These are hardworking, passionate contributors who could easily leave for greener pastures. They are driven by a sense of purpose to rescue the state of higher education and to create a better experience for us all. For every student, for every staff member, for every faculty member and everyone else lost in the cracks of an ever-growing crumbling system they inherited.

The sooner we all come to this conclusion, the sooner we will be able to stand shoulder to shoulder and protect our interests from the real puppet masters holding the strings.

There is truly only one person who is responsible for our outcries. The budget producer and budget cutter. If you’re mad, it’s time to do something about it. You need to lift your fingers and fight for your beliefs. Governor Cuomo has consistently cut our budget, diverted funding from essential programs to other self-interested causes. The Excelsior Scholarship serves nothing more as a resume booster and a photo-op with Bernie Sanders in an effort to gain the support of our liberal generation. The Excelsior Scholarship has worked as a secret tax, by cutting the amount of funding given to an institution for each student. The TAP gap, has burdened our institution, forcing to accommodate more students while lessening the amount of funding per student.

This is theft, hidden in a slew of financial documents we cannot comprehend, within a process built to keep the truth hidden in the dark.

You need to write a letter. You need to call your elected representatives. Write a tweet or a Facebook post. You need to be loud and vocal about Governor Cuomo’s decision to defund public education. We cannot continue to allow public servants to win elections at the expense of their constituents. We are voters and the next generation of taxpayers. It’s time we realize that the faculty and administrators cannot speak out because of their job’s security and to internalize the burden falls on us, the students. Only we can voice our concerns without fear of retribution. Let’s make our voices loud and clear. We will not, we will not continue to let this war against public education to continue. It’s time to stop cowering in the corner. It’s time to fight.

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