Town and Gown
by Olivier Delrieu-Schulze & Cayden Mak
As concerned graduate students at the University at Buffalo, we think it’s time to more deeply connect the city and the university. There will be no escaping the state’s enormous budget deficit, nor the way Albany has betrayed SUNY by raising tuition and then reclaiming most of that money for the state’s general fund. It is clear that neither UB and SUNY, nor our legislators in Albany, are willing to take a bold stance to solve together longstanding and common problems facing our university system. We don’t want to be addressed as just believers, nor as consumers of a product. We think that engaged students acting as citizens sharing our knowledge and skills in civic issues is a neglected resource. We can’t keep cutting funding; research universities can and should generate ideas and stimulate economies, but not at the cost of selling off public investments to private interests.
We have gone to Albany and spoken directly to State Senators and Assemblymembers not only about concerns facing graduate students but about the community impacts of PHEEIA on Buffalo. There are positive, innovative, and important steps that UB2020 engages, some of which attempt to correct decisions made in the past. But PHEEIA introduces many very serious and major changes that may be impossible to undo in the future. As residents of Buffalo proper, we wonder what UB and Buffalo would have been like if the Amherst campus had been built downtown. We don’t want 2020 to stand only for vision in hindsight with regrettable impacts that cannot be undone.
We believe that UB can develop public-public relationships in addition to public-private ones—more fully supporting smart, existent projects like Buffalo Re-Use, PUSH, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, and the Massachusetts Avenue Project. As graduate students, we feel that we can and should return, through our ideas and training, the investment that was made in us—since we are at a public university that is in the public service. Buffalo can be a truly shared space, not just somewhere we need to find an apartment and wait out the winter in order to get our degrees. It’s full of opportunities to help us hone our skills, network with and learn from our shared community, and support each other to engender a productive, sustainable region and city.
We feel that it is important to share our support and concerns with the UB2020 team and greater Buffalo. We love Buffalo and we love UB. We live in complex times and it is especially in such moments that the role of the public university becomes imperative: We must not shy away from the problems that may, now, seem insurmountable. Rather we should start a trend toward dialogue, engagement and action. This goes all the way to Albany and is not isolated from issues across education and the broader community.
Olivier Delrieu-Schulze & Cayden Mak Graduate students, UB
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