College Students Learn Democracy through PB

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All the buzz was around Queens College campus during the Participatory Budgeting 101 workshop. Over 25 students from at least 6 campuses attended and networked over complimentary bagels and coffee. Students were eager in learning how to gain decision-making power over spending $5,000 of the student government budget. The workshop engaged with student interests on equity and the role of tech tools.

Queens College_Feb 19 2016 #5.jpg UPDATEDProviding contracted technical support, our staff gave QC students a crash course on managing their own PB process. Students gathered around discussing the need for “transparency and accountability from their student government and campus administration” said Alex Kolokotronis, PB Queens College Coordinator and Founder/ Lead organizer of the Student Organization for Democratic Alternatives (SODA).

The common goal that students had: to have a say in the quality and future of their education. Many students also want to build skills that they can use in their post-college life and career. QC and CUNY students voiced a desire to open opportunities for those who don’t have equal access to higher education, keeping tuition down, and wisely allocating the existing school budget to improve school infrastructure. “Some students and even faculty hope PB can be part of a push to more broadly democratize CUNY” said Alex.

PB in a university setting was first launched at Brooklyn College in 2012 and is still going strong with students managing a budget of $25,000, which has grown over the past four years. “I believe finding out that Brooklyn College did PB gave Queens College students additional confidence that it could be done at a university level…” shared Mike Menser, PBP Chairman of the board and Professor at Brooklyn College. Queens College has about 20,000  students, however, this process cannot be done successfully without support from the faculty and administration. PB offers a great platform for everyone on campus to engage in discourse that prioritizes the needs of students and faculty and streamlines this to the administration.

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