By Adeeb Chowdhury
Leadership and its accompanying responsibilities were a common theme in the Student Association Executive Council’s meeting Sept. 15. The council discussed the upcoming SUNY Student Assembly elections, spoke with an eager candidate, and contemplated opportunities for greater student involvement.
James Kinney was a candidate for the role of secretary of the Student Assembly. This organization is composed of students from all 64 campuses of the SUNY system, representing almost one and a half million students. Their upcoming elections are scheduled to be held online at 5 p.m. on Sept. 25.
Kinney is a human development major from SUNY Albany and strives to “uplift student voices from all corners” of the university system through commitment and leadership. His previous roles include serving as the student body president and associate director of academic affairs, as well as the deputy director of engagement for the SUNY SA.
“In unprecedented times like these, we must unite our voices. And when we are united, we become truly unstoppable,” Kinney said.
Kinney outlined his 10-point advocacy plan, which SUNY Plattsburgh is the first institution to be officially introduced to. He promised to promote system-wide accountability and hold the SUNY administration responsible for tending to students’ needs. The plan also advocated for greater support for minority students through mandatory implicit bias and cultural sensitivity training.
“There are no if’s and but’s about it,” he said.
Kinney then emphasized the need to support students through the pandemic, noting that not everyone has access to a safe, healthy location to take part in remote learning. Next on the plan was the prevention of on-campus sexual harassment and abuse. Kinney noted that 11.2% of all college students experience sexual assault, and that only 24 of the total 64 SUNY campuses have necessary evidence-based prevention programs.
Kinney also emphasized encouraging more accessibility within the Student Assembly, promoting statewide diversity and inclusion, supporting non-traditional students such as adult learners and transfer students, expanding upon and properly carrying out the duties of the secretary and advocating for higher funding for the SUNY and CUNY systems.
SA President Rudaba Ahmed then made sure to inquire about the voting process for students who are not members of the SUNY SA. Kinney explained that each college within the system is allocated a certain number of delegates based on their student population. SUNY Plattsburgh likely receives three delegates, which include the SA president and vice president. All voting delegates will meet on Zoom for the election next week.
SA Advisor Jacob Avery then suggested that the SA should interview all the candidates running in the upcoming election, not just one. He explained that this would give students a far stronger picture of the election and who’s involved, allowing them to make a more informed choice.
Avery also pointed out that another election is approaching as well — the U.S. presidential election. Avery argued as the election cycle reaches a climax, it is essential for students to recognize their personal biases in order to better understand themselves and the political process. He then went on to encourage the executive council members to develop a strong PR plan to market themselves and ensure all students are aware of upcoming events and opportunities to get involved.
Ahmed also discussed her plans to help improve the shuttle and dining services, as well as a follow-up meeting with the SUNY Chancellor to raise awareness about career opportunities at SUNY Plattsburgh, such as through a career fair. Ahmed expanded upon the idea for a mentorship program, which will connect alumni with current students.
Other executive council members described projects and initiatives they are currently working on. Coordinator of Student Affairs & Diversity Mariam Kebe is aiming to assist students register to vote for the November election. Coordinator for the Arts Rickell Larose plans to use Instagram to promote and collect student input regarding future art programs. Treasurer Ha Nguyen is collaborating with clubs to ensure they understand the revised budget for the semester and the process for securing additional funds.