In its second full semester on campus, the Queens College Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee is focusing on longevity and stability.
The Student Organization for Democratic Alternatives works with both the Student Association and the Queens College Association to ensure that a portion of student’s tuition funds are being allocated for the change they want to see on campus.
Changes that students have lobbied for in the past include better Wi-Fi, more bike racks, and increased composting and recycling efforts on campus.
Seniors William Novello and Tariq Chandni lead participatory budgeting at Queens College, and despite it being a new organization they believe they will continue to receive support from the QC community.
“When we were first established we did have an outpouring of support,” Novello said. “In terms of people on campus excited about Participatory Budgeting we had 1400 students come out and vote.”
Novello estimates that roughly five percent of students on campus participated in the votes held by the Student Organization for Democratic Alternatives.
This year’s approach to participatory budgeting is different from last year’s approach because instead of one semester to develop and implement ideas, they now have a full school year to work with the Student Association.
“Last year’s process I like to consider Participatory Budgeting on steroids,” Chandni said. “That was the fastest process I’ve ever been a part of.”
This year, participatory budgeting at QC is focusing on idea collection and finding those who want to be involved in the development of those projects during the fall semester. Voting, idea development and implementation will take part during the spring semester.
Chandni believes it is beneficial for students to get involved because it makes them think about their educational experience.
“Participatory budgeting forces you to think about yourself and others around you on campus. It would make your experience on campus better by getting involved,” Chandni said.
The QC Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee is open to all ideas as the students choose what they would like to vote on.
SODA provides students with a space to share their ideas, whether that means holding out of class assemblies for students to discuss ideas or in class assemblies to give students class space to come up with ideas. SODA also sets up tables around campus for those who would like to present an idea to them in private.
Students who feel intimidated approaching the project because their ideas might be different from the views of other students should not feel discouraged.
“It’s about projects, not people,” Tariq said. “We are a nonpartisan group.”
Novello believes the success of the group is contingent on support from both the school’s administration and from the students. One of their challenges is establishing themselves as a legitimate organization that the school administration sees a benefit in investing in.
“We need to establish ourselves as an independent organization, something that will be self-sustaining on campus,” Novello said. “It’s our job to make sure the administration can feel comfortable not only in the present but also investing moving forward into the future.”
Their next assembly will be held on Dec. 1 at 11 a.m. in the Student Union Fishbowl.