Student Trustee calls for all charges to be dropped, opposes tuition increase

University Student Senate (USS) Chair Kafui Kouakou, the only student who holds a seat on the Board of Trustees, has called for charges against students arrested in Monday’s protest to be dropped. In a press release today, he also said he is “unequivocally opposed” to tuition increases and will vote them down at the meeting on Monday, November 28.

As the student Trustee of the City University of New York (CUNY) I think I speak for the vast majority of CUNY students when I say that I am unequivocally opposed to any tuition increase for public higher education. This has also been the position of the University Student Senate for years now.

New Yorkers have always known CUNY to be an institution responsible for providing quality and affordable education. On Monday, November 28, I intend to live up to this promise of quality and affordability by voting no on the proposal to raise tuition by 35% over the next five years.

The proposed tuition hike is nothing new. For the past two decades our students have been assailed with increase after increase. And CUNY is not alone. Public academic institutions throughout the country are being attacked by legislators wishing to close budget gaps. This is a narrow minded approach to governance. The students of CUNY represent the future of the New York work force.

This past Monday, during the CUNY Board of Trustees public hearing at Baruch College, the frustrations of students, professors, and stake holders of the universities came to bare. I sat through approximately four hours of testimony. I heard disappointment. I heard fear. But most importantly, I heard concerns for the future of CUNY.

Outside, while I was listening to these concerns, students gathered to protest. I am confident that these students were there to genuinely express their frustrations regarding the seemingly eminent proposed tuition increase. Unfortunately, some students were detained and others arrested. There was also some alleged misconduct by law enforcement.

This climate of aggression between protestors and peacekeepers is something we are growing all too familiar with. I am saddened by any student arrest on CUNY grounds. I understand the charges are being investigated, and I do not wish to jump to any hasty conclusions. Nonetheless, I can pledge that I will be working closely with Chairman Schmidt and Chancellor Goldstein to make sure that the charges against these students are dropped. These charges threaten to compromise the rights of students and citizens to peacefully assemble and exercise their freedom of expression.

I encourage my fellow students at CUNY and at all other schools to voice their frustrations with this total disregard for affordable education. I encourage you to educate yourself on the issues and engage in peaceful demonstrations. But please do so respectfully and responsibly.

Kafui Kouakou

CUNY University Student Senate, Chairperson CUNY Board of Trustees, Student Representative

Click below to download an electronic copy of the release:

USS chairperson Statement 11-23-11 (DOC)