Student Association of the State University of New York Records, 1969-1985
- State University of New York--Student Association
- This collection documents the activities of the Student Association of the State University of New York from its founding in 1970 hrough its first decade of existence.
- 17.5 cubic ft.
- English and English
- Preferred citation:
- Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Student Association of the State University of New York Records, 1969-1985. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the SASU Records).
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- Scope and Content:
The bulk of the papers of the Student Association of the State University of New York cover the period 1970-1980. The collection contains minutes of the Executive Committee, the Student Assembly, and the general membership meetings, executive and special committee members' correspondence with SUNY administrators, state legislators, and member schools, legislative proposals and reports, memos to state legislators, and SASU publications 1972-1985. The records in this collection document the concerns of SUNY students during the 1970s, and the ways in which these concerns intersected with the general social, political, and economic climate during this decade.
During the early 1970s student protest against the lack of student input into the decision-making process on campus was very widespread. The formation of SASU, while unusual because the organization attempted to unite students on many campuses, was nonetheless part of this general revolt against perceived student powerlessness. The SASU records for 1970-73 provide a wealth of information about the organization's attempt to gain recognition by the SUNY administrators, in particular by the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees. The creation of the Student Assembly in 1973 by these administrators as the bona fide body representing SUNY students, and the relationship between SASU and the Student Assembly are well documented in the Executive Committee minutes. The materials for the early 1970s also contain information concerning the student protests against the involvement of the United States in Vietnam.
Throughout the decade SASU was involved in efforts to prevent both tuition hikes and decreases in student financial aid. The collection contains much information about student protests and lobbying, organized by SASU, against State proposals to cut funds to higher education during the mid-late 1970s. There is also information documenting SASU's attempts to ensure that the needs of minority students were voiced in the organization itself, as well as in the larger political arena. In 1977, a Third World Caucus and a Women's Caucus were created to represent these minority groups at the annual membership meetings, and to answer to these particular students throughout the year.
SASU's correspondence with member schools illustrates the organization's early struggles to secure support at campuses which often believed that an organization based in Albany could not adequately represent their particular needs. This correspondence also provides information about the ways in which SASU publicized its activities, and organized such projects as the voter registration drive in 1976.
Correspondence with State legislators illustrates how rapidly SASU's influence grew during this decade. This increasing strength was due both to SASU's clarification of its purpose, as well as to the increase in its membership. The records contain a wide variety of materials documenting the legislative concerns of the organization, including SASU's annual legislative agenda, memos to State legislators, information from the annual legislative conference, and periodic reports from SASU's legislative director.
- Biographical / Historical:
The Student Association of the State University of New York (SASU) was established in the Summer of 1970 by five student governments in the State University of New York system. There were several reasons for its establishment. First, a new Chancellor, Dr. Ernest Boyer, had just been appointed without any meaningful student input into this decision. Second, the State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees was proposing to alter the rules governing the use of mandatory student fees without consulting with students. Third, many students were alarmed at the response of SUNY Central to disruption on campus, and believed that a state-wide student organization was necessary to oppose the establishment of local campus hearing commissions for campus disruption.["A Short SASU History," (Reprinted from 1972 Annual Report), History folder, SASU Subject Files.] Finally, and perhaps most important, it should be noted that on college and university campuses across the nation, students were demanding that they be granted a greater role in the decision making processes on campus. On many issues, ranging from the establishment of curricula to the leveling of fees and tuition, students were increasing their input into the administration of their institutions. Thus SASU's creation should be seen in the context of the growing national student movement.
In October 1970, SUNY student government leaders gathered in Albany for the first plenary session of the newly incorporated Student Association of the State University of New York. A steering committee had been formed, composed of three students, one from each of the State University Centers at Albany and Buffalo, and the State University College at Oswego. Each of these schools had loaned money to SASU in order to have this first conference. It was agreed that power within SASU was to be democratically vested in the membership, however conflicts arose over voting structure and membership dues were. Community college delegates feared that most of the power in the organization would be concentrated with the representatives of the four year schools, and four-year state operated colleges were equally fearful of domination by the four-year University Centers. A compromise was achieved apportioning delegate votes and membership dues according to both the number of students represented by a particular student government and the type of school.[Ibid.] SASU delegates were to be responsible for conveying local campus issues and proposals to the Membership, and for reporting back to their local student government approved plans of action.[Untitled form letter describing SASU, History folder, SASU Subject Files.]
At this meeting an Executive Committee was established, consisting of twelve people, elected from the membership, whose major responsibility was to carry out the dictates of the membership and to coordinate SASU activities.["SASU Perspective", circa 1971, History folder, SASU Subject Files.] This committee would act as a steering committee and make policy decisions in the absence of the full Membership.[Untitled form letter describing SASU, circa 1975, History folder, SASU Subject Files.] It was decided that only seven rather than eight members were required for a quorum.[Membership minutes, 5 December 1970.] Also at this first meeting the organization's by-laws were established, making SASU not only a political forum for students, but also a service organization.["A Short SASU History," (Reprinted from 1972 Annual Report), History, SASU Subject Files.] The student representatives recognized that if student governments were to be asked to pay between $1,000 and $6,000 to join, SASU would have to provide some concrete attractions such as savings in such areas as health insurance, block purchasing and entertainment contracting.[Ibid.]
Since SASU was a voluntary organization, and since it received no formal recognition from the University's Central Administration, most student governments were unwilling to commit funds during the first year. Thus the officers devoted a great deal of time and energy to convincing these governments of both the political and economic advantages of student unity. At the second meeting twenty schools were represented (although only five had paid dues).["A Short SASU History," (Reprinted from 1972 Annual Report), History, SASU Subject Files.]
In 1971 SASU hired a full time Executive Director to based in Albany. This Executive Director was to be responsible for the operation and the monitoring of activities in the Capitol. This position was abolished within six months due to both conflicts with between the Executive Committee and Executive Director, and a lack of funds with which to pay for the position.[Ibid.] In 1972, with the election of Mark Borenstein as chairperson of SASU, the functions of the Executive Director were assumed by the SASU chairperson (alternately known as the President).
At this time the Executive Committee adopted a statement of policy prescribing three major objectives for SASU. First, provision of direct services to student governments and student government organizations. Second, provision of direct services to students in the State University. Third, the monitoring of policy organizations that administer SUNY and higher education in New York State in general, particularly the Central Administration, the State Education Department (Board of Regents) and the New York State Legislature.[Ibid.] Four students were hired as part-time staff in the new Buffalo office to begin to implement the new priority mandates.
During 1972 the organization addressed the conflicts between the two and four year schools represented by SASU, and decided that membership should be restricted to campuses directly governed by the State University Board of Trustees, thereby barring community colleges which are governed by an independent board of trustees.[Ibid.] At a later date the voting structure of the organization was also changed. Member schools were to be represented by a student government President, and an at-large elected delegate for each 3,500 full-time equivalent students.[Untitled form letter describing SASU, History folder, SASU Subject Files.] At the June membership meeting regional offices were approved in New Paltz, Stony Brook, Potsdam, Geneseo, and Binghamton or Cortland.["A Short SASU History," (Reprinted from 1972 Annual Report), History folder, SASU Subject Files.] Finally in recognition that the organization needed to be effectively represented in the State capital, funds were provided for employing three full time staff and the Albany office was opened in September 1972.
As the membership of SASU continued to increase the functions of the organization expanded. Committees were created in several areas to answer to the needs of the membership, including legislation, consumer services, communications, university affairs, and later in the decade minority and women's affairs. In December/January 1973-74, SASU's Legislative Director was formally registered with the New York Secretary of State.["SASU: Legislative Victories," pamphlet, circa 1979, History folder, SASU Subject Files.] At that moment SASU's legislative committee ceased simply monitoring and reporting news in the capitol, and began instead to lobby both State legislators and the Governor for student rights and interests, and to create a working relationship with SUNY Central, and the State Education Department. The legislative committee kept the member schools abreast of pertinent legislation, via periodic reports and updates. Its annual legislative conferences provided a means for student representatives to discuss lobbying techniques, and also how to motivate students to make their opinions known to their legislators. The legislative department of SASU has also maintained a student internship program. Several of the interns later held the position of legislative director. The Campus Communications Office was responsible for sending out press releases, operating the State University News Network (SUNN) which provides campus media with regular news reporting of events throughout the state, and publishing UPDATE, a bi-monthly magazine and Communique, an in-house news update, and Grassroots, a state-wide newspaper (started in 1977). The office also sponsored journalism conferences for SUNY newspaper staff.[Untitled document describing SASU's structure, ( undated), History folder, SASU Subject Files.]
The Office of Student Affairs, also known as the Office of Information and Research or the Office of University Affairs, was created to maintain files on all issues affecting students, to keep abreast of SUNY Central decisions, to answer information requests from SUNY student governments and organizations, and to provide student input into SUNY Central decisions on such issues as FSA regulations, housing, and campus governance.[Untitled form letter describing SASU, circa 1975, History folder, SASU Subject Files.] The Office of Joint Services was established to offer buying cooperatives, insurance programs, concert block-booking, and other services to SUNY students.[Untitled document describing SASU, History folder, SASU Subject Files.]
The State University Central Administration did not formally recognize SASU as a legitimate representative of SUNY students. The Council of Student Association Presidents therefore suggested that another organization be created that would be recognized by the administration. On April 25, 1973, after six months of intensive consultation with student representatives, the Board of Trustees approved the establishment of a State University Student Assembly, which would provide a formal structure "for consultation and the exchange of information between University students, the Chancellor, and the Board of Trustees, on matters of a University wide nature which affect student concerns."[SUNY News Release. April 25, 1973, Public Relations Office, History folder, SASU Subject Files.]
As defined by the Assembly's by-laws and articles, students from the State operated campuses would elect delegates to the Assembly on the basis of one delegate for each 3,500 full time equivalent students. Assembly membership, would total sixty-six students of which eight would represent the community colleges. Officers of the Assembly would be a chairperson and vice chairperson, elected annually by the campus representatives. The Executive Committee of the Assembly would also be elected at large by the campus representatives. This committee would act on behalf of the Assembly between regular meetings and would meet periodically with the Chancellor or his designee. To become a functioning body, student leaders at three-fourths of the State operated campuses were required to ratify its provisions. It was the understanding of the Council of Student Association Presidents and the campus student associations that the Student Assembly and SASU would co-exist as a dual organizational structure for representing the interests of State University students on a state-wide basis.[Ibid.]
The Student Assembly recognized the need for a University-wide student organization that was student funded and independent of University control. In a resolution circa 1973, the Student Assembly pledged its support of SASU, and stated that it intended to cooperate with SASU on all matters of mutual interest. To facilitate cooperation between the two organizations, SASU proposed that the representatives of SASU hold office in SASU by virtue of their office as representatives to the Student Assembly.["Student Assembly Statement in Support of SASU", History folder, SASU Subject Files.] Thus, despite identical personnel, SASU and the Student Assembly remained legally separate entities committed to working together towards influencing policy decisions of a State-wide nature which affect SUNY students.
- Acquisition information:
The Student Association of the State University of New York donated these records to the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives1981 May.
SASU donated additional records1983 January.
SASU donated additional records1983 May.
- Processing information:
Processed in 1991 by Jean Kemble.
- State University of New York SUNY, Central Administration
Social Activists and Public Advocates
Albany, New York
Education, Higher--New York (State)
Students--New York (State)--Political activity
Student government--New York (State)
Clippings (information artifacts)
- State University of New York--Student Association
State University of New York