United People and Student Association at large is currently seeing a growing internal movement from students, also former members of UP, frustrated with the extent of alumni involvement.
Michael Bento, junior, was the fourth UP member to defect from the party and join forces with Students for Change in the past two months. He joins Karamvir Singh, running for SFC president, Brian Edelman, running for vice president, and senatorial candidate Marium Sulaiman. Other former UP members who were not on the official slate have also joined SFC.
“I left because I was frustrated,” Bento said. “I smelled bulls–t and I called bulls–t and that’s why I defected.”
Jonathan Khalily, a sophomore and former member of UP, also defected and co-founded SFC this semester due to disapproval of the inner workings of the party.
“Steve and Charmaine, two of the people in charge of UP, were very involved even though they are way past their glory days and hardly take more than one class a semester,” Khalily said.
Khalily and Bento both named Charmaine Worthy and Steve Kleinberg as over-reaching alumni, who currently serve as advisers to UP. Kleinberg was once appointed as a member of the senate for the party back in the 1980s and Worthy was the first black SA president at Queens College in 1985. Both of them are still students.
“The UP platform directly reflects the ideas of our team of student leaders and other members of the student body,” Kleinberg said.
Khalily recounted specific events from the weekly UP slate meetings that took place under the direction of current UP President Sixto Arias and Vice President Raspreet Bhatia alongside Kleinberg and Worthy.
“These members of UP [Kleinberg and Worthy] would belittle their fellow peers for ‘not listening’ or coming late as if they were the teachers and we were the students, rather than we were all students,” Khalily said. “If a member would be disrupting the discussions they would send him or her in a ‘time out’ and if one would be late they would be forced to apologize in front of everyone no matter what the circumstances were.”
Bento, who served on the academic senate’s ad-hoc committee on CUNY Pathways, believes that what happened to drive the implementation of Pathways was against the democratic process. Pathways was implemented by CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and the board of trustees without any input from students or faculty. As a student senator in the academic senate, he wants to work with UP to bring back ‘shared governance.’
“I am going to dig up that grave [Pathways] and find faculty to work on it with me again and make sure it changes. The biggest issue is the fact that it did bypass the University Senate and basically the chancellor told us we don’t have a say,” Bento said. “We want a fair college bureaucracy with the students’ say, not the chancellor telling us what to do.”
Bento initially decided to run for the senatorial position with UP because there was no other alternate party and he wanted to ensure that the work he had done on Pathways would be seen all the way through.
“I think it happens that when one party gains too much power and they stay in power, they get lazy. They claim they are doing stuff but really, they are just corrupted,” Bento said.
Bento claims the Committee for Disabled Students is Worthy’s operation and because of her influence with UP, it is granted special privileges.
“CDS has a $100,000 budget from student activity fees but I don’t see anything coming out of their operation. I haven’t seen any new ramps or anything. They have had some great events but surely they don’t cost $100,000,” Bento said.
Bento also disagrees with Worthy and Kleinberg’s view of the chancellery. Worthy said she was not opposed to Pathways and spoke out in its favor on behalf of UP. Bento feels that their opinions are always reflected on party members who in turn, are told what to believe.
“What I can tell you about those slate meetings [weekly UP meetings] is that they [party members] are pretty much spoon fed what they are to believe, what they are to say, how they are to campaign, from the get go, all the way to the end, by Steve and Charmaine,” Bento said. “Everyone except the two leading candidates and myself and Peter Trojic, are new candidates and easily influenced.”
“It’s certainly true that we’ve offered guidance based upon our experiences as student leaders, but that guidance has been offered to any slate or candidate who is willing to listen and regards this advice as valuable. Anybody who thinks that, even if we were so inclined, we could somehow play any role in limiting student debate or discussion has obviously never experienced campaign meetings at QC,” Worthy responded.
SFC members are critical of UP as a party and claim the root of the problem is over-reaching alumni influence.
“SFC I’ve grown to realize is going to do what is right. Currently one of their platforms is to get the parties off campus and end alumni ‘managing’ them,” Bento said.
People who have joined SFC are adamant about removing UP from power and have a set of platforms that they said they gathered from speaking to students.
“I think once you get into UP there’s no real motivation to actually make the change. It’s more about them getting elected and after that, they are not so committed,” Singh said.
“UP is about wielding power and being a phony representative student body. It is about two people controlling the student budget and putting it toward pet projects,” Khalily said, and SFC is looking to change that.