University Student Senate, USS, is a CUNY organization composed of a student senate that represents all students CUNY-wide. The USS is comprised of delegates, alternates and a steering committee that together represents and advocates for over 500,000 CUNY students from 24 different CUNY campuses. The USS was founded in 1972 by QC alumnus, and vice president, Jay Hershenson, with the goal of ensuring that CUNY provides an affordable, accessible and quality education.
Out of the ten positions that people are running for, only two are being contested. These include the position of vice chair of senior colleges and vice chair of fiscal affairs. One of QC’s very own, Student Association vice president Farbod Hadizadeh Moghadam, is running for vice chair of senior colleges of the USS steering committee.
When asked why he decided to run, Moghadam said, “Being vice president and part of USS helps a lot. Typically e-board members are sought after for by USS because they have that connection and presence because they know the by-laws. For instance, as an USS member you would know certain rules and bylaws that influence you on VP. I’ve been in USS for three years, and I’ve spent four years in student government. I shouldn’t just confine myself to QC and Queensborough Community College [student governments]. I want to help all students systems as a whole. It will help QC as a whole to have a USS presence.”
Moghadam discussed what the role entails, explaining, “I’m running for vice chair. My position would essentially entail representing all senior colleges at CUNY. One issue that is really important for senior colleges that a lot money comes from state. And in my role we do a lot of lobby[ing]. An issue that is really occurring is that all senior colleges are either in budget deficit or almost. QC is almost there. City College of New York is $10 milion in deficit. Sometimes when the administration needs money they go after student activity fees. We lobby to get more money for our senior colleges.”
One thing Farbod is interested in, is tackling TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) reform. “One of the things I want to do is to create a TAP reform to help graduate students. Senior colleges have many graduate programs. We need undergraduates to go to graduate school. To make New York one of the most educated states and New York the most educated city in world, having some sort of financial assistance will help that.”
A further concern Moghadam aims to address includes how the student activity fee is spent, something many students and organizations experience firsthand. “If I get this position, as a team, I’d like to hire a lawyer for USS to write proposals for student activity fee changes. I want to work to make sure student activity fees stay in the hands of the student for clubs, SA, scholarships, events, conferences and lobbying efforts,” says Moghadam.
Moghadam is running against Sol-Marie Quintero from Hunter College. Despite the chair position being held by two former-Hunter students, Moghadam feels confident in running. “To be honest I really don’t have any fear. My fear down the line would be not being able to go through what I promised. I’m really confident about the race. My experience, knowledge and networking at CUNY sets me apart from my opponent,” Moghadam says.
Only delegates can vote on steering committee positions, so unfortunately the rest of the student body doesn’t have any significant say in this election. However, the outcomes of these elections are important to students. “Since the delegates are representing us, I hope they go to the polls informed and not voting on a candidate that is only concerned about one issue,” says Jessica Alexander, an undeclared sophomore.
Students are also excited to see change and work with the new USS members. “I’m hoping for whoever ends up inheriting USS that they are able to work with us and go beyond. Not just that they’re talking the talk, I want to see them on the ground doing the work. We [New York Public Interest Research Group at Queens College] expect to work with them closely because they work with us on ASAP [CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs],” says Smitha Varghese, a junior majoring in psychology and chair of the state board of directors of NYPIRG.