After 40 years of consecutive wins, United People has introduced a new kind of dynamic into the Student Association elections this year, through a certain 5-foot-female.
Malinie Cyril’s authoritative manner of speech stands in stark contrast to her petite and frail build.
“I like to get things done,” Cyril said.
Running as the 41st candidate of UP, the leading party on the Queens College SA scene since its founding in 1971, Cyril plans to repeat many of last year’s platforms, which she still considers relevant campus issues.
“UP has taught me how to be a successful advocate,” said Cyril, recounting her two years with the party where she currently serves as treasurer.
The candidate was also a senator for Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge in the academic senate. She is currently the secretary for the Committee for Disabled Students at QC as well as an active member of the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities. While serving in SEEK, she managed to offer workshops for résumé building and how to apply for scholarships and internships.
Cyril testified at the CUNY board of trustees hearing on behalf of the QC student body in July 2011 before the rational tuition plan was approved. One of her platforms is to continue the fight against tuition hikes, which UP adviser Steve Kleinberg claims to be a permanent stance of UP; one that he insists will not change.
“Malinie is always on top of things I give to her,” said Sixto Arias, current UP party member and SA president. “She’s like a sponge and she has a passion to help others. She may look small, but she has a really powerful voice.”
The 12 platforms she presents, Cyril said, were collected by UP representatives who spoke to students around campus.
“Our platforms were created after talking to students and finding out what they want changed,” the QC junior said. “The thing about UP is that we will never give you platforms that we can’t achieve. We won’t tell you that we are starting a shuttle service from the college to the train because we know we can’t do that.”
Cyril, who is an accounting major and a business and liberal arts minor, aspires to be a certified public accountant. With a history of involvement in student government since high school, Cyril decided to join UP for one reason.
“I had heard that UP was the group with the proven track record for getting things done,” she said.
After Cyril expressed interest in becoming the presidential nominee for UP in February, she was interviewed by the current president and vice president who decided that she was eligible to run based on her active record with the party. According to Kleinberg and Arias, Cyril beat out current Students For Change presidential nominee Karamvir Singh for the spot, which led him to run as an independent.
Cyril also plans to introduce to the college what the SA has repeatedly failed to do in their four decades of power: publish progress reports on their administration, thus increasing transparency of their inner workings.
“I hope this is a way to let the students know what we’re doing and how they can help,” Cyril said.
One issue Cyril takes to heart to accomplish is the issue of CUNYfirst – she is intent on starting a dialogue between students with complaints and the administration.
“Malinie is a hard worker and she just gets things done and that’s her strength. There isn’t this big monolithic thing that we are up on 319 and the rest are everywhere else,” said Kleinberg, referring to UP’s office space on the third floor of the Student Union. “We have an open door policy where anyone can come in and talk to us; we try and keep things friendly and open.”
Cyril said she plans to continue the usual UP method of reaching out to students. Current UP members wear a badge with their logo on it to identify themselves as members, signifying that they are open to discussions about the SA. They also plan to be more open toward receiving criticism by carrying suggestion boxes around campus occasionally to drive communication between themselves and students.
“We need to encourage students to participate. Right now it’s just by word of mouth and flyers and it’s a huge challenge,” Cyril said.
Criticism of UP, however, grows daily – four members to date deflected from the party and joined SFC, calling lack of student voices and over-powering alumni a hindrance in accomplishing many goals.
“I broke away from UP because of the corruption and because the students didn’t have a say. SFC wants to give the students a say again and stop the alumni influence on the parties and its platforms,” said Michael Bento, who is running as a senator in the upcoming elections. “To my knowledge, SFC’s platforms are all student ideas by students.”
Bento has served with the academic senate on the CUNY Pathways committee. He officially deflected from UP on April 19 on the grounds that he could no longer be a representative of an ‘oligarchy,’ which had more alumni influence than any student organization should. He however, due to technical reasons, remains on the UP ballot.
“I haven’t heard much about her before and this is probably the first time I’ve ever heard her name,” Bento said of Cyril. “Maybe she was involved but I think maybe because I haven’t heard of her before, kind of reflects the work she’s done. I heard about certain things Vicky Brown [UP’s vice presidential candidate] did, but not her.”
With Cyril in the forefront, UP’s members expect not just a populist victory, but also a qualitative one.