Public college reps meet to fight budget cuts

Student trustees and Student Government Association executive officials from seven New Jersey public institutions of higher learning met on Jan. 27 at the College to discuss the formation of the Garden State Student Alliance (GSSA). GSSA has been formed to address state budget cuts in funding for higher education.

Questions of legality and ethics promptly arose regarding the goals of the organization.

“Lobbying is supposed to be the main thing we do,” Matthew Browne, a delegate from Rowan University said.

Student trustees questioned whether lobbying at the student level would cause potential legal complications. College President R. Barbara Gitenstein indicated in an e-mail interview that student trustees would be able to engage in lobbying activities.

“As far as the work of students, trustees and administration, good judgment and civility dictate how we engage the legislature in understanding the importance of what we do at institutions of higher education. . I do not see how a student’s meeting with a legislator to explain the value of his or her experience at an institution would be considered part of this kind of problem,” Gitenstein said.

GSSA has been working to address the issue of lost funding since Fall 2006. During the 2006 midterm election, GSSA initiated a voter registration drive. Silvestro said that the registration drive targeted the 18-24 age group, a voting demographic crucial to the success of GSSA’s endeavors. Silvestro mentioned that in order to garner the sympathies of New Jersey politicians, college students must vote.

In addition to the registration drive, GSSA is currently examining the logistics of locating polling places on college campuses. Silvestro said that the convenience of campus-based polling locations, combined with a voter registration drive, would yield an increase in voter turnout within the 18-24 age group.