SA “targeted” Guyanese Student Association club room

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On January 29 members of the Queens College Guyanese Student Association learned that the Student Association Space Committee planned to strip it of its club room in the Student Union Building without notifying them. But the club fought the move and won a reprieve until at least next fall.

On January 26 the SA space committee voted on a proposal to offer the GSA’s space in the Student Union to the Caribbean Student Association, but the proposal failed. As noted within the meeting minutes, Student Association “suggested” fellow registered student organization, the Caribbean Student Association, move their club room into GSA’s current space in the Student Union. The SA space committee stated the reason for the move was that “membership varies from club to club,” and that the Caribbean Student Association has 45 active members, while the Guyanese Student Association has only 35.

Neither the Guyanese Student Association nor the Caribbean Student Association were listed as having representatives present in the minutes of the meeting. GSA indicated that it had not been informed of the meeting and was unaware that the reassignment of its space was being considered.

The minutes of the space committee noted that SA Vice President Akila Wazeed made a motion to hold a sample vote to test support for the proposed move. All SA members voted yes to the move except for Frank Wilson and Melody Paniagua.

Wilson and Paniagua proposed that two representatives from each club come to a meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 31, with Wilson describing himself as “not being comfortable with voting for something like this without the students being present to voice their concerns for their spaces.”

The committee decided to send an email on Jan. 29 to both organizations informing them of a meeting to take place on the following Wednesday in which the matter could be discussed.

The Guyanese Student Association responded with a public letter written to the QC community.

“We are in dire need of assistance from the Queens College community, as the future of our club is in jeopardy,” the letter said. “It has been brought to our attention, that members of the Student Association SPACE committee called a meeting on Friday, January 26 to remove the Guyanese Student Association from our club room, Lower Level 15. We are disheartened, as concerns voiced before regarding (the) Student Association and their inability to inform the campus of meetings in advance have gone unnoticed. Their inability to inform our organization of their decision has resulted in GSA potentially suffering a severe consequence—losing our club room.”

The letter described the Guyanese Student Association as being “a part of the Queens College community for over ten years. Throughout our duration on campus, we have been known for our efforts to unite students through culture and friendship, creating an endless support system for the QC community.”

The letter added that GSA “is disappointed to hear Student Association wishes to remove us from our space, for reasons we cannot comprehend. Stating other clubs are ‘certain clubs are collaborating and need a bigger space’ does not warrant our removal, especially since we have strictly followed all Student Union rules and regulations. We are also concerned as to why it is appears our club alone is being targeted for removal from our space.”

The club called on members of the QC community to attend the meeting when their space would be up for reallocation.

The GSA’s executive board and the CSA’s executive board attended the space committee’s Jan. 31 meeting, where SA Vice President Akila Wazeed called for “executive session,” to have private deliberation on the reallocation of the clubrooms. However, the CUNY Open Meeting Laws limit executive sessions to specific circumstances, such as “public safety and law enforcement, proposed or pending litigation, collective bargaining, matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation and the proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property.”

The 2016-2017 Registered Student Organization handbook states “The Space Committee reserves the right to reassign space,” however, Dean of Students John Andrejack noted that the space committee has never reassigned rooms in the middle of the academic year.

The meeting that took place on Wednesday, January 31 consisted of back and forth contemplation between Student Life Officials and SA members, with SA non-traditional chair and space committee member Karandeep Singh stating “The reason Jap[neet] and I targeted GSA—” followed by Judith Krinitz noting the usage of the word “targeting” for official record.

The meeting also consisted of Student Development and Leadership director Dwayne D. Jones pointing out that there are vacant spaces in the Student Union basement, adding that GSA does not have the largest space in the basement.

The discussion of “membership” was brought up in the meeting, as a reason for the offering of GSA’s space by SA. Membership was addressed by Jones, who stated he had seen no documentation by the SA Campus Affairs Committee, the SA  division responsible for monitoring club activity, regarding GSA’s membership.

Jones stated, “You’re just saying what you ‘observed,’ you have to show documentation to show this is what [you’re] doing because— I’ll be honest, this looks like it’s targeting a specific group, because there are bigger spaces downstairs, and we don’t know ALAS [the Alliance for Latin American Students] numbers compared to GSA numbers…there’s nothing document[ed].”

SA vice president Akila Wazeed responded, “Dwayne do you have those numbers?”

Judith Krinitz intervened, stating “that is not his responsibility.” Krinitz explained the purpose of space committee is to document their observations of club activity in the basement, stating “what we do here in our office [Student Development and Leadership] is to give you guys leadership opportunities, and this is not leadership, this is not students governing their peers, or asking their peers what we can do for you, there’s another word for this and it’s certainly not governance.”

The meeting concluded with CSA stating they did not mind waiting until the Fall 2018 semester for a bigger room, and GSA retained their current space.  

The meeting brought concern as to why GSA’s club space being offered for allocation, due in part to the existence of vacant club rooms. While Karandeep Singh is documented as stating “the reason we [Student Association] targeted GSA,” his word choice reflects sentiments expressed by Dean Andrejack, who was noted as discouraging the meeting from occurring.

The last club to accuse Student Association of discrimination was the pro-life organization on campus, Students for Life, who were denied RSO permission last year by the SA Campus Affairs Committee. Students for Life sued the SA Campus Affairs Committee, claiming that its  denial was “unconstitutional discrimination.”

Such allegations are being discussed among GSA, as Student Association space actions are possibly in violation of the City University of New York Policy in Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination.  

The Knight News has reached out to GSA to inquire as to whether they are looking into taking legal action against Student Association SPACE committee, however they have not responded.

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