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The First 30 Days: Where are we at? Where are we headed?

By Nissim Said

Published: October 11th, 2017

As fall approaches, it is time to turn over a few leaves, if you will. It has been a busy term so far. Looking back on what we have accomplished and the many projects we have been working towards, I feel hopeful and motivated! In this letter to you, I wish to share some of that hope. 

In our first couple of weeks, CLAS has launched its new mentorship program. In the past, membership to student government was severely limited; it was based on connections. With the launch of this program, we are transitioning into a system based on merit alone- setting new precedents to hold our institution to higher standards. So far we’ve had over 60 students apply, all of whom were accepted. The goal of this initiative is to increase student involvement on campus, and with 60 new members we are already making great strides!  Join at TinyUrl.com/JoinCLAS

Leadership is not just about resume-building. It is about making an impact, and ensuring that the student voice is never absent or silent. In August, we spoke to the incoming freshmen at orientations and at the activity fair. CLAS members spoke about our experience as student leaders, advertising our CLAS mentorship program. To continue are efforts, we are in communication with the first-year Director, Ms. Sarah Crosby. Senior CLAS members are going to use the month of October visiting INDS courses . The goal is to recruit as many freshmen as we possibly can. Investing in our future needs to be a constant effort from our CLAS members.

It is no secret that voter turnout has been a challenge. Why? Perhaps students are not aware. Perhaps they don’t care. Maybe the process is confusing. In a multilateral approach, we are addressing all of these avenues. For us, that means achieving a CLAS Student Government Election with a voter turnout of over 16%, doubling that of previous years. We are redesigning the election act to create a more competitive election culture, where the best students are elected for their ideas and work ethic. Election campaigning should be extended to one full month, and 1 full week for elections to be open . We’d like to have three times as many candidates as there are positions. We need to make sure there is enough time for students to ask questions, be involved and make informed decisions. The Speech and Debate team agreed to moderate the elections during the campaign season, and we’re thankful for them.   

Transparency, a campus-wide initiative, is about being personable, available, and honest. Hoping every student knows of student government, and their representatives. We have already planned Meet Your Representative tablings throughout the year. Our first Town Hall is in 2 weeks, where students can voice their concerns about Brooklyn College. We’re working on live streaming all our Assembly meetings, as well as live streaming CLAS Leader talks.

We’re doing our best to reach out to as many students as we can. The Office of communications is allowing us to email all CLAS students on important legislative matters and CLAS updates that pertain to all students. We created a newsletter specifically for student leaders and eboard club members. We listened to the rightfully deserved criticisms and outreach this year has been much improved. More newsletters, more information, more flyers around campus, and better utilization of social media. 

A playing part in transparency, is creating guides to facilitate a smooth transition for CLAS. We created a manual for representatives and student leaders to understand the enormous system that is Brooklyn College and CUNY. It’s open for all students to leverage. Additionally, we are crafting a guide for all student leaders & eboard members that would include necessary info about how to start, how to run, and how to transition a club with every document and piece of advice we have to offer. Campus life at BC is a gem in the CUNY system and we need to build on a culture of student leadership. We’re even working on creating a technology crash course to teach to student leaders, faculty, & the administrators on how to be more efficient and automate the most mundane parts of your job.

Unfortunately in years past, CLAS would find it difficult to fill committees where students could work along with faculty and administrators to create a better campus. The student voice was lacking and not always present, but this year we made sure to reach out to students and recruit students that would be interested in those committees and serving the campus body. I can proudly report we have an incredible amount of interests from students this year, filling all but a few committees. It goes to show Brooklyn College students care about this campus and are willing to do the work.

One of the biggest themes of this year is recruiting clubs and student leaders to CLAS and helping us serve the campus community even better. We need to work together to create a better, more inclusive campus for each of us. Brooklyn College is full of bright minds and leaders in need of an opportunity to make a difference. The collaboration of the events for Black History Month was unparalleled to anything we’ve seen before, and it inspired us to be better.

We understand the criticism Brooklyn College often hears. There’s almost no pride in being a Brooklyn College student. We’re aiming to create more opportunities for students to showcase their individuality and embrace our BC Pride culture. We’re creating the first design the next CLAS logo competition, trying to leverage our talented students here at BC and making students feel like a part of CLAS. We’re also organizing the first CLAS Halloween Costume competition, as part of our BCPride Intiative. We’re also trying to create the first faculty and staff vs student leader charity dodgeball game. Another idea was inspired by Penn State’s Thon; it’s an event that raises millions of dollars every year, and one we’re trying to recreate it for BC on a smaller scale to fundraise for important charities. The charity of choice will most probably be decided by a student vote on the BC in the Know 2 FB page. CLAS is working on the first holiday gifting program for BC students.

Additionally, we are working on CLAS governance structure and working along with ACA and SGS, to create a undergraduate student government that will represent all students, ensuring that every student and every minority has a seat at the table and feels that their student government  works toward their interests.

Technology improvements across BC is something we are pushing hard for this year. We’re leveraging our best students to help answer the question, “How can this be done better?” One of the initiatives we are working on is automating and simplifying a lot of the forms, and tasks that student affairs required of clubs and student leaders. The more time we can save student leaders, the better they can serve their constituents. Not only in student affairs, but how can we improve the BC Navigator app? How can we ensure Brooklyn College students are gaining access to all important information without roadblocks and misinformation that weighs down students.?

We’re working with Andy Auguste, the Housing Coordinator to ensure our student’s complaints are being addressed. One of the ideas we had is a session to inform residence students of their rights, and how they can move forward with their complaints without the fear of being targeted for speaking up. We need to evaluate the licensor agreement and confirm systems are put in place to help students, and not management.

Along with our Strategic Planning report, we’re working on removing the mandatory homework software students need to purchase in order to do their homework. McGraw Hill’s Open Connect is not the best idea for our Brooklyn College students who are already paying increased tuition rates and working part-time or full-time jobs to make ends meet. Additionally we are working on building on our Student Discount program for local businesses in the area, so students could have better variety and support local businesses.

On the topic of academics, we are hearing loud and clear the shortcomings of the online BC Bookstore. One of the ideas we’ve had in addition to using Open Source Textbooks, is adding an amazon locker on campus where students can order their textbooks. We’re also working on a syllabi database where students can take a look at the workload of classes before they enroll in them. How are we making college affordable? One of the initiatives we’re working on is printing course packets in house instead of Far Better Copy. Let’s put money back into student’s pockets and ensure we all have an opportunity for an affordable education.

There are many CUNY wide issues we are tackling. Our first goal is how can we negotiate a deal with the MTA for student discounted metrocards for all CUNY students. If CUNY is to be the home of affordable education and a model for the rest of the country, how are we making strides toward that goal? We need to advocate on behalf of our DACA students to elected officials to create a meaningful protection program without any strings attached, ensuring our DACA students safety as well as their families.

Sustainability has been an issue untouched by BC students in the past. Our student leaders are working hard at reimagining the possible and creating a greener campus footprint. We’re trying to create an awareness campaign along with meaningful initiatives like compost trash bins in the Cafeteria, modeling Eatsa’s successful system. 

What are we doing for our diverse student populations? What are we doing for students with disabilities, for our veterans and for our LGBTQ community? First, we need to create an awareness campaign that the buttons used for opening doors will breakdown if pressed and then the door is pushed. We need students to be conscious, use the buttons only when necessary. We need to evaluate the emergency plans for students with disabilities, and how an emergency is communicated to students,in case of any unforeseen emerge. We need to create a checkbox that veterans can check off when applying to Brooklyn College, so that the office of Veteran Affairs can reach out and guide our veterans through the bureaucracy that is CUNY. Too often our students fall through the cracks and never receive the guidance they need.

We barely even touched the subject on events. Just this semester alone we’ve planned Movie Night on the Quad, Diwali at BC, Townhalls, Meet Your Representative Tablings, Brooktoberfest, Puppy Therapy, Coffee and Donuts for Finals, World Kindness Day, a Thankfulness & Multicultural Dinner, and that is barely scratching the surface of what CLAS is planning.

The biggest thing is, in order for us to serve the campus and negotiate on our students’ behalf, we need support. We need data to prove that we truly are coming to the negotiating table with the needs and voices of 12,000 students. We designed this google form, please fill it out and get your friends to do the same. It’s easy for CUNY or BC admins to say students don’t really care for this idea, because nobody is complaining. If we come to the table with real numbers and data representing at least a 1,000 students, we know that our demands cannot be ignored.

To us, our positions are a privilege.  We understand the weight of responsibility that comes with our roles. Our duties go towards the betterment of the campus community and that is the kind of impression we want reflected in our future members. We hope we are clear to students, faculty and administration when we say we are here to represent our students loudly and boldly. We thank you all for entrusting us with this massive responsibility and we hope we can live up your expectations.

 

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