Twenty-one alumni, all members of the Alumni Association's Legislative Action Committee, and three students arose early Tuesday, Feb. 27 to take a chartered bus to the state capitol for "UB Day in Albany." The trip traditionally is scheduled a week before the statewide "SUNY Day," which took place March 5.
President Greiner and Molly McKeown, assistant to the president for government relations, met the travelers for the day of visits with Western New York legislators and legislative leaders, according to William Evitts, executive director of Alumni Relations. The group divided up for 22 appointments with legislators and staff, including the chairs of the Senate and Assembly Higher Education Committees and a high-ranking advisor to the governor on higher education, explained Evitts.
Jude Schwendler, assistant director of Alumni Relations, said the alums spoke to legislators, advocating restoration of Tuition Assistance Program funding to last year's level, passage of management flexibility legislation proposed by the governor and approval of a $250 tuition increase. However, legislators told the alumni that "this is not going to be as simple as we would like it to be," according to Schwendler. "They also specifically told us that they hadn't seen or heard much from students," she added, "and that they want to hear from students and parents in much larger numbers during this process."
"It's always hard to assess what impact you have," Evitts said. "We had a very enthusiastic turnout and received warm receptions wherever we went. You just have to take it on faith that, in time, the effects of our visits begin to pile up." Trip participants' assessment of the message they received from legislators, according to Evitts, was: "We don't want to pay for you, we don't want you to charge more to make up for it and we don't want to quit managing you as closely as we did when we paid for everything." Evitts added that the very fact SUNY had survived previous cuts is considered "evidence that further cuts are permissible" in Albany.
The lobbyists also made a side trip to the nearby New York State Library and Archives, where they checked out a 150-year-old book of legislative enactments. The handwritten record of legislative action contains UB's original charter, passed by the legislature in 1846. It will be on display at the university this year, as part of UB's Sesquicentennial celebration.