Days after staging protests on campus as part of the national March 4 Day of Action, a small group of students at Stony Brook University sat down in the hallway outside of President Stanley’s office for hours and begged passersby for spare change to cover the rising costs of tuition.
Kevin Young and Nick Eaton (who is a contributing writer for Think) organized the event today, and were accompanied by roughly a dozen other students with jars and signs.
“I can’t afford to pay for tuition,” said James Ging, a freshman Engineering Sciences student. Ging’s concerns are with differentiated tuition, which would set varying tuition costs based on departments within the university.
“PHEEIA is going to make it harder for students to pay for tuition, especially for the engineering students,” he said.
PHEEIA, or the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, is the SUNY-backed proposal to reinvent the tuition model for the 64 member campuses that comprise the State University of New York. One potential affect of PHEEIA would be the implementation of differentiated tuition.
The students timed their protest to coincide with a press conference with President Stanley for campus media. President Stanley did not step outside his office to address the protestors, but several campus media stopped on their way out to speak with students.
During the press conference, President Stanley was asked about these student protests, including the one that was ongoing on the other side of the wall.
“I take it very seriously, obviously.” He said. “Whenever the students are speaking, I’m listening and I hear what they have to say.
“Hot air. Empty rhetoric,” says Nick Eaton. “If President Stanley was really interested in student protests, he wouldn’t send the chief of police outside and charge us with disorderly conduct.”
Campus police were dispatched to the Administration building when the students arrived. According to Ging, at the offset of the protest, there were five officers in the hallway with just 8 students.
Robert Lenahan, the chief of police for the University Police Department, was stationed outside the door. He would periodically step inside the office and speak with representatives from the president’s office.
According to Eaton, the plan was to have two shifts of protestors, one for before the press conference and one afterwards. After the arrival of the university police however, they “refused to leave on principle.”
“This event was supposed to be small and shed light on PHEEIA,” said Eaton. “It was escalated by the presence of the university police department.
The University Police Department was not immediately available for comment.