UB Council Student Representative Mike Brown wants more transparency and shared governance between the UB student population and administration.
President Satish Tripathi, Vice President for Student Life Scott Weber and Chief of Staff Beth Del Genio met with members within the Council of Advocacy and Leadership (COAL) on Thursday to discuss student concerns and suggestions for a more transparent community.
COAL is made up of the seven student government presidents, the Student Wide Judiciary Chief Justice and chaired by Brown.
In between questions and playful responses teasing some student concerns, tension between administration and student leaders could clearly be felt.
Brown, a junior computer science and political science major welcomed fellow members SA President Leslie Veloz, GA president Jennifer Schechter, former GA president Tanja Niina Aho, Student Wide Judiciary Chief Justice Joe Wolf and Graduate Management Association’s secretary Mark Wilson.
Brown directed the discussion for most of the night, occasionally handing the floor to fellow members. The night’s agenda swiftly started with a call for more transparency and communication between administrators and students.
The convictions of former UB Vice President Dennis Black and former director of Campus Living Andrea Costantino were among the most pressing of issues addressed immediately.
“It was unfortunate,” Tripathi said. “We found out things were not proper and when we found that there were really illegalities we talked to SUNY and of course gave it to the Inspector General and let them do their investigation.”
Tripathi said the university was as transparent about communicating their knowledge of the case as they could. When questioned about the security of UB’s accounts and private information, Tripathi assured attendees that measures are in place to ensure proper protocol.
“We have policies and computer security programs in place and once in awhile, this happens,” Tripathi said. “I want to assure you that if we find [something out of place] we will continuously monitor it and make sure that people are really held accountable to that.”
Veloz, a senior psychology and English major expressed her concern with transparency.
“It seems as if the majority of the information that we receive is always coming through third party sources, I want to make sure that the student body is the first to learn of any major news,” Veloz said. “UB needs to be proactive in making sure that [President Tripathi] releases a statement directly to the students in the future.”
Tripathi feels he and his fellow administrators have been effectively communicating with the student body.
Students also voiced their concerns about renovating older spaces on campus to have a multitude of modern spaces to live, study and learn in.
Weber commented that as a part of UB’s usual renovations, numerous bathrooms and facilities have been renovated across campus. He added that all the apartments have received new appliances for the new school year.
Other issues discussed during the meeting included the rise of the Academic Excellence Fee, the petition for a rise in TA stipends, hiring more diverse faculty and staff and the construction of the new Global Café.
The conversation became intense with the discussion discussion of rising TA and adjunct stipends to compete with other schools of our size across the nation.
Schechter, a linguistics Ph.D. student and adjunct instructor voiced her concern that she has to work multiple other jobs in addition to her position as an adjunct to make a living wage which is preventing her from focusing on her research.
“Adjuncts in my department make $2700 a semester to teach a three-credit-hour class, which is a lot of hours,” Schechter said. “All we’re asking for is enough money to make a living wage, I live off campus, I have a son, the pay for my position just isn’t enough.”
Another issue is the fluctuation between what stipends are distributed to different fields of study. TAs and adjuncts in STEM fields tend to receive a larger sum of money than those who work in the humanities.
President Tripathi recognized that this is a problem but said that TAs and adjuncts are two separate issues the school has to deal with.
“We have to pay enough so that people can live,” Tripathi said. “I agree that our TA stipends are low, given the financial situation we have to think about if we can afford as many Ph.D. students. If we want to support a stipend for more than four years, the number goes down further. We need to make the school attractive so that good doctoral students want to come here...it’s a tricky situation.”
President Tripathi said he will attend a COAL meeting at the beginning of spring semester and remains open to discussing student issues at any time.
Max is the senior features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org