Every year, SBU staff, faculty and students go to Albany to show legislators exactly what’s unique about our school. Armed with buttons, fliers, “Red Hot” book bags and energy beyond measure, these lobbyists in the making talk to the people whose decisions affect SBU, whose decisions affect all of us.
The tradition started 13 years ago, with no more than 16 participants eager to make the trip up to Albany and possibly make a difference. With participation growing steadily over the past few years, the program has grown and thrived under the encouragement of President Shirley Strum Kenny.
“One of the great things about the trip to Albany is that it’s not scripted. They say whatever they want to say,” said President Kenny in an interview with Gabby Robergeau, a student in the School of Journalism. “The most important thing about Stony Brook is that the students get to speak, and they are our best advocates.”
This past Tuesday, approximately 1,000 students, faculty and staff arrived at the South P Lot between 5 and 6 a.m., making the four-hour journey to arrive ready to go.
Prepared with information regarding the university from the Albany Day web page, groups of students and staff went off to speak with legislators.
Some students, however, were still unsure about what they would be experiencing.
“I don’t really know what to expect [because] I haven’t done it before, but considering there’s more people going every year, it must be pretty exciting,” said Nicholas Lord, drummer in the Stony Brook marching band. “I just know we’re going up to lobby?I’m excited [and] I’m anxious.”
Groups that went to Albany this year included students from the Southampton campus, caretakers at the Long Island State Veterans Home (LISVH) on campus, nursing students and the marching band, each with its own specific agendas.
The Southampton students were lobbying for additional help for their newly renovated campus. The campus currently has 200 students enrolled and wishes to expand that number significantly over the next five years.
With a focus on Environmental Studies, Marine Sciences and Marine Vertebrate Biology, the faculty and students felt the need to expand the amount of majors available at the campus.
The LISVH caretakers came along for the trip to talk about the proposed nursing home cuts, saying that they’re suffering losses in revenue already because of a deficit in Medicaid payments.
Stressing that a cut in funding to the nursing home would affect the inhabitants of the Home, the caretakers saw Albany as the way to go.
Nursing students spoke to legislators about the shortage of nurses and nursing instructors. Inadequate lab equipment, lack of funding to pay teachers and a two-year waitlist to get into nursing programs were matters that were discussed during their sessions with legislators.
The students plead to Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, also a member of the health committee, in hopes that they would be heard.
When all the lobbying for the day was done, there was a closing ceremony where legislators, students, staff and faculty came together to enjoy each other’s company… and the spread of desserts.
With the marching band playing tunes in the background and forming a conga line on the main floor, the only thing left to do was look forward to the long ride back to campus.