By Najib Aminy
Not many students know about the Undergraduate Student Government at Stony Brook. In fact, last year’s election polled a total of 1,059 students for the two presidential candidates, which Jeffery Akita won by 113 votes. A thousand students may seem like a lot, but it is small compared to a total of 15,523 undergraduate students, according to the 2007 Stony Brook Office of Admissions Enrollment Guide. Mathematically, nearly seven percent of all undergraduate students voted last April for their USG president and respective senators.
To recap, last year’s USG presidential election came in with the resignation of an overly ambitious Executive Vice President, the de-funding of NYPIRG, and the possible impeachment of Jeffery Akita from his post as Vice President of Clubs and Organizations. Agreeing to talk to The Press, Akita was open in discussing his goals as USG President and responded to the critical views against him stemming from last year’s election.
Though Akita was not impeached, previous USG Senators sought to indict Akita for his failure to get in touch with clubs and execute his job properly. Akita responded saying that the prosecuting Senator’s “stance was that I wasn’t visible, which was not true. Most of their accounts that they tried to hold against me were not true, they said I was corrupt, which they found I wasn’t, I had no relationship with money. They told me I didn’t meet with various organizations and clubs. I did, and different people testified. The whole thing last semester has passed, but the whole goal was to prevent me from being in this position [as USG President] and, as you see, I am in this position today.”
However, prior to the elections, Akita did resign from his Vice President position to preserve his run for presidency. Had he been impeached, Akita would have been prohibited from running for USG president under the current USG constitution. Regardless, Akita has high expectations and goals for the upcoming year and wishes to strengthen the relationship between the executive council, the senate and the judiciary. “If there is turmoil within the council, it affects the delivery and the amount of feedback we get from students and as far as how we can do things and how we should address things,” said Akita. Outside of the halls of USG, Akita said he is looking forward to “ensuring that academics are always provided, [that] there is a healthy lifestyle on campus, the safety of students is always recognized, and to ensure that student life is actually going on as expected and that more students are getting involved and staying on the weekends,” said Akita.
Despite having articles brought up against him claiming that he was not present, one of Akita’s big plans is to become a visible president. Akita assured that he is willing to help out students as much as he can. “I am a student but I understand that I am here to serve the students, so if I am not available, then how am I serving the students?”
With Akita at the reigns of the USG, he is to face, like the rest of SUNY, a possible 10% budget cut. Though a 3% cut was announced earlier in the year, the talks of an additional 7% cut have led to speculation as to how this may affect Stony Brook students. “I want all students to know that the budget cuts are not directly affecting the student activity fee, but it will affect the things it goes towards. For instance, the prices of certain things are going to up and [the number of] personnel will be going down,” said Akita. Examples given where shift in office hours of personnel due to the freeze and possible reduction of the budget. Alongside USG, Akita is working on holding a rally during the last week of October to protest the budget cuts. In conjunction with SUNY Old Westbury and Farmingdale, USG intends on setting up petitions to let Albany know that SUNY students cannot live through a 10% cut. “Look out for the protests. It is going to be big. We are going to need everybody’s support if we really want to send a message about these cuts,” said Akita. Regarding the current club budget, a potential cut would not interfere with the money allocated by the USG for 2008-2009 USG fiscal year rather it would hinder the formation of new clubs due to the reduction of funding.
With a constricting budget, the future for clubs such as the Social Justice Alliance and more notably NYPIRG seem grim. Both the budgets of the SJA and NYPIRG were rescinded and currently have no 2008-2009 budget. NYPIRG was not given a budget due to insufficient attribution of its 2007-2008 funds, according to the USG. In response to their de-funding, Akita said he believes in his treasurer and urges whoever was denied to still apply before the upcoming deadline on September 26. “Last year was last year. It is a new year, you don’t know what is coming. You may get your money, you may not get your money. Anything that happens there is going to be a reason behind it, it is not bias or anything.” Regarding NYPIRG, Akita says he has thought about allotting money for NYPIRG. In essence, the USG would freeze money, in which NYPIRG would allocate for in efforts of documenting where NYPIRG’s funds would be going.
With the absence of NYPIRG and the upcoming November presidential elections, the USG has taken up the task to coordinate voter registration with NYPIRG’s assistance. “We’ve taken that role, but in the last senate meeting a member of NYPIRG expressed that they are still going to continue with their involvement in voter registration. They are still playing their part and are encouraging other people,” said Akita. The USG, under Sophomore Representative Kadeem Hylton, have started mobilizing people in promoting the efforts for students to register and vote. Through contacting various clubs and organizations as well as Residence Hall Association, Akita says that everyone is “coming together to work as one team to register as many people to vote.” Akita also said that Hylton is organizing a “Rock to Vote” movement, an event that educates students on the importance and essentials of voting.
Regarding Stony Brook’s own vacancy, Akita holds a chair in the Presidential Search Committee. With Shirley Strum Kenny’s lame-duck status, Akita is looking for a president “who is going to be there for the students, going to advocate for the students, provide for the students, and love to be the president of Stony Brook University. “In efforts of truly representing students, Akita plans on taking advantage of the USG Rep. center and intends on using polls and feedback from campus media organizations in what he calls “a unified effort.”
In closing, Akita made an emphasis on availability and shed light on the fact that USG is not a negative, but a rather positive institution on campus. He said, “I am going to treat this as a business and a relationship. What has to be done must be done, what can be done should be done, that’s how this government is going to be run. And together with the students, my representatives, senators, and the judiciary, we are going to work together to make that happen. What happened last year are lessons for the future. Today is here, and we are going to focus on today move forward.”