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My Message To The CUNY Board of Trustees

By Nissim Said, President of CLAS Student Government

Published: March 14th, 2018 

Monday was exhausting. We hosted an online town hall concerning the issues about the Student Activity Fee changes, finished helping organize the confluence of events of the day, and with an hour left I wrote my testimony I would present to the Board of Trustees.

I hope my message did not fall upon deaf ears & that the unequivocally courageous students who spoke truth to power be taken seriously. We are far more cognizant than those who oppose us believe. We are greatly underestimated, and we will not tolerate the belittling nature the Board of Trustees possess of its students.

“Hello Board of Trustees,

My name is Nissim Said, I am the President of CLAS Student Government, representing 11,000 students here at Brooklyn College, and when people ask me how I’m doing, I say I’m tired.

I’m tired of this constant attack and pressure from every angle, I’m tired.

I’m tired of the unnecessary hardships student leaders face in creating the slightest of change, I’m tired.

I have to focus on my grades, my personal life, my government & future,

And still worry about the challenges you all throw at me.

Whether it’s tuition hikes, or tuition hikes in the form of SAF changes, unfunded mandates in the Student Tech fee, incomprehensible fees, or budget cuts or line item vetos, I’m tired.

I’m tired of the shadow war on public education.

I’d like to focus on my responsibilities & helping my constituents. Not combatting you all or the Governor’s interests.

I’m tired of the overreaching arm of the CUNY BOT & by extension Governor Cuomo.

I’m tired of learning about how many conflicts of interest serve within CUNY.

I’m tired of listening to students complain that half the bathrooms are not working in Roosevelt hall.

I’m tired of hearing only one women’s bathroom works on a given floor.

I’m tired of telling students we will try to purchase a new air conditioner unit for their classroom.

I’m tired of telling students there is nothing we can do, because the money is simply not there.

I’m tired of hearing faculty and administrators complain about their inability to speak out against your plans, for fear of retribution.

I’m tired of new programs like the Excelsior, which help only 2% of our population but widen the TAP GAP significantly. I’m tired of policies being created to launch Presidential campaigns. I’m tired of my Governor standing shoulder to shoulder with Bernie Sanders, having hoodwinked us all into thinking the Excelsior program is free education for all.

The biggest lie being told is that exists an unbalanced budget. That students should be asked to pay for their rising tuition costs. At the same time, our Governor creates programs that widen the TAP GAP, cuts the budget & exacerbates the budget deficit. I’m tired of this hypocrisy. If we are for financial responsibility, we are for financial responsibility everywhere. If we are for fairness, we are for fairness everywhere. Not when it is only politically convenient or beneficial. 

Why do we preach accountability on the backs of students, but not question the Board and it’s motivations? Why do we have a Governor who politicizes our education and use it as gambling chips in his pursuit of the Presidency? I’m tired.

How are we considering the inability for students to name where their referendum money should go towards? What service or product exists anywhere in the world, where the consumer is not allowed to understand what they are buying? Why do we have to fight for this? I’m tired.

Why do we need to advocate for organizations like USS & NYPIRG to maintain their earmarks, the last avenues for students advocacy? I’m tired.

I’m tired of growing to understand that students are not a priority in shared governance. That the board envisions us as glorified complaint filters. We need more resources, more training, more structure to communicate with our constituents, and overall, making our jobs just a little easier. It should be hard, it should be full of challenge and strife, but it does not need to be this tiresome. It should not be this difficult to keep the board & our administration honest.

This proposal justifies all my political cynicism & thoughts about the game going on behind the scenes. The abandonment of my liberal idealism that truly good people pursue public office, for the betterment of others & not the self.

I’m tired of the question, CUNYfirst or CUOMOfirst?”

I hope the next President to assume this office continues the foundations we’ve sought to create. The next 10 years will be a new age of politically engaged students combating the policies and procedures that seek to implode our united effort. The next 10 years will be triumphant in its achievements and we reach for the stars.

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