Enrique Oropeza came from Peru to the United States as a future engineering student. A few years later, he’s become a pioneer of student rights within the CUNY system. He is currently an alternate delegate for University Student Senate, with plans on running for the Vice Chair position for International and Immigrant Students committee. He is meeting with the faces of New York politics, such as the Mayor of New York. He’s changing the way CUNY students thrive in this concrete jungle we all call home. So what has changed for Enrique?
After changing his mind about engineering, Oropeza decided to focus his efforts on Political Science and Latin American Studies, now a sophomore here at Queens College. In addition, he has embarked on the challenging dual program for Urban Studies and Urban Planning students.
During his high school years, Enrique said that most of his classmates were immigrants and most of them were also undocumented. “In [high school] I pushed all my friends to apply to college…I realized then I was really passionate about it, and I just decided to jump on it. I want to do the same for CUNY,’’ he said. Enrique’s passion for helping others achieve their dreams while not letting their legal statuses’ in the United States pose as a barrier is what drove him to approach the Mayor of New York during a press conference.
Thankful for his connections as a field organizer during his work on Cynthia Nixon’s campaign, Oropeza found himself in the back row of the Mayor’s press conference stage. ‘‘[After the conference] I went to the mayor… in front of the press, and I asked him, ”Do you remember me? I made a speech for you and worked for you? Right now I’m a CUNY student and I’m starving. We need resources.’ ’’
His bold approach worked and a meeting was scheduled. There, Enrique showed up with a few of his friends as back-up. “[t]he deputy mayor looked at us and gave us the most honest answer: ‘we’re not going to listen to you unless you come with a bunch of students because that is your leverage,’ ’’ he said.
As the alternate delegate on behalf of Queens College, Enrique’s job is to step in to vote on behalf of an official delegate in the event that they are not present. The CUNY University State Senate (USS) was founded in the 1970s by Jay Hersherson, who had the aspiration of “…preserving the accessibility, affordability, and excellence of higher education within the City University of New York”, according to the CUNY USS mission statement. It serves as the political platform for students to vocalize their political stances, their ideologies; it is the platform where they get to turn those ideas into realities.
As an activist for student rights that attends protests and vocalizes his college’s needs directly to the higher-ups, Enrique tries acting in the best interest of the students that he represents, putting them before himself. “In student power, there is leverage in numbers,’’ he said.
Using that phrase as his mission statement, he ventures across the QC campus to talk to students about his ‘platform’. “The best way to campaign is to make sure students know what you’re up to,” he said. What’s ironic, however, is how little the students reallyknow about what he is ‘up to’.
An anonymous source said that there have been calls for Oropeza’s removal as a University Student Senate alternate delegate. The source had also said that the reason stems from a dispute that started when the QC SA President had run, and eventually won, for the President role unopposed.
The source claims that in the following months since Joseph Cobourne’s election, Enrique did not agree with some of the decisions being made in regards to the student body, such as the amount of money spent on the Welcome Day artist. “…Enrique has done a really poor job of making something of a cordial and amicable relationship with Joseph… by expressing his negative feelings… to a lot of students on campus,” the source said.
When asked about this allegation, Oropeza said, “I think there has been [talk] but it consists of misunderstandings… At the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing. It’s just a matter of finding [a] way to make those two ideas go together.”
The student senate will meet on September 19th to reach a resolution regarding Enrique Oropeza’s removal from his position as an alternate delegate for USS. It should be noted that Oropeza also happens to be a student senator. The student senate must reach a two-thirds majority agreement to remove Oropeza from his position as an alternate delegate.