On Thursday, student and regional social advocacy groups held an open meeting to discuss the dangers posed to the American public education system.
Experimental Media Organization (EMO), New York Student Rising (NYSR) and the Graduate Students Employee’s Union (GSEU) hosted the discussion. They focused on issues at Binghamton University such as tuition hikes, teaching assistant and graduate assistant contracts, and the sale of University land to hydraulic fracturing companies. They also acknowledged issues in national education such as the recent strikes by teachers in Chicago.
One of the discussion organizers, Kaan Basaran, a third-year graduate student studying sociology, said conditions for students and teachers around the country have been worsening for years.
“This [Chicago] strike is really significant in a way, because teachers haven’t been in a strike since 1984,” Basaran said. “The budget of the public schools system has been progressively taken to the private schools.”
One of the panelists, EMO president Julia Soares, said students should be more aware of education issues.
“I wanted people to sort of realize that there are these problems going on campus of which they are probably already aware of it but also that they can do something about it,” said Soares, a junior majoring in psychology.
The organizers attacked efforts by some educational and political leaders to privatize educational institutions.
Shehryar Qazi, a second-year graduate student studying sociology, believes educational leaders are treating schools like businesses.
“There’s more and more money being brought to make education like a business, which is adversely affecting the poor and middle-income students the most,” Qazi said.
Qazi suggested that SUNY colleges and universities are good alternatives to private universities that many middle-class families cannot afford.
“For them, they could get a better education and a better future,” he said.
The representatives in the discussion panel and group members affiliated with EMO, NYSR and GSEU encouraged the attendees to stay involved in campus issues. All three clubs plan to work together to press University administrators and state government to keep supporting public education.
Basaran stressed the importance of keeping up with current events.
“The most important thing is to educate yourself, to be more critical, to learn more about what going on,” Basaran said.
Basaran added that students attending public universities should collectively take a stand.
“It’s an opportunity as a political body to have your voice heard,” he said.