Letter to the editor

Sub-Board I needed to go. Its services should not. 

During undergrad, I worked for Sub-Board I, Inc. for four years. From 2009-2013 I was a DJ at WRUB; from 2010-2013 I was WRUB’s program director and then operations manager; in 2012 I launched the UB Hockey broadcasting program with Sam Hakim (much to SBI administration’s chagrin); for two different semesters between 2010 and 2012 I was an SBI Safety Shuttle driver on the midnight-4 a.m. shift. That place is a bureaucratic and organizational nightmare, a mismanaged entity from a bygone era. While the story is still developing, the death of Sub-Board is neither surprising nor unwarranted; but the cobbled together catch-all services that it provides should not be thrown away. 

Sub-Board emerged out of the college-driven social movements of the late ‘60s. At the time of its founding in 1970, “student services” were not commonplace on university campuses. A collective of students pooled together both their voices and resources to demand basic quality of life, safety and health services be provided on campus. This was and is a commendable and influential cause that echoed across the United States, leading to the many services that are now expected or taken for granted on college campuses. But these services, such as a safety escort van, access to health and crisis care, a pharmacy, housing help, etc. are no longer “crazy hippie ideas” and as time has passed, SBI grossly departed from its “student-owned” tagline to which they still cling. Yes, SBI may be, on paper, “owned” by students, but it most certainly is not run by students. 

One pass through the SBI office and it is abundantly clear who calls the shots. The full-time, “adult” administrators and staff run the show. The entire organization is funded by the seven student governments, but students have virtually zero power over its governance or operations. The SBI e-board itself is not directly elected by students, but instead by proxy through the student governments and members of SBI itself. SBI’s ace in the hole for years has been that it was the fiscal agent for all student fees; “We control the money, you can’t get rid of us.” The e-board and student staff members are very much under the influence of Bill Hooley, the long-entrenched executive director. The career employees of Sub-Board control processes, procedures, access to funds, all of it. In no way, shape, or form is SBI student run, and in no way, shape, or form, does the everyday student who “owns” the corporation have any input on its operations. 

The services that Sub-Board provides, however, are exceptionally beneficial. It is important to have access to free legal advice. The Safety Shuttle is a priceless service. The pharmacy and ticket office provide great services to students and organizations. The problem is, every single service could be integrated into another entity on campus –– and likely run much better and more efficiently. Legal assistance could be absorbed by the Law School, Pharmacy by Student Health Services or the Pharmacy School, the Safety Shuttle overseen by UPD (as it is at most other SUNY campuses), WRUB into Media Studies, Comm, or run as any other club, etc. Protecting a pseudo-autonomous organization that simply exists because it controls the purse strings –– and has managed to cling to life for decades –– is nothing but cliche bureaucracy that disempowers students. I am not at all pleased with FSA fiscal control, and severely worry about Tripathi and his goons having a tighter grip on our money, and greater domination over student self-governance. But keeping SBI on wasteful life support is not the answer. 

- Zaque Evans, graduate student and TA in Sociology, undergrad at UB from 2009-2013, and DJ at 103.3 The Edge.