Caption: SUNY Student Assembly Vice President Michael Casey, left, with the new leadership team: President Ally Chun, Treasurer Jake Longuil and Secretary Tasnia Zzoha.
By Darren Johnson
The No. 2 student in SUNY’s government is Michael Casey, 22, a Greenwich (Upstate New York) High School graduate and former Eagle Scout who went on to SUNY Adirondack and is now finishing his four-year degree as a Psychology major at SUNY Plattsburgh.
In a ceremony on April 30, Casey was elected Vice President of the SUNY Student Assembly, the governing body representing students at 64 campuses statewide.
Leadership comes naturally for him. Casey has previously served as a Representative on the Executive Committee of the Student Assembly of the State University of New York. He also served as a Student Senator in the SUNY Adirondack Student Association. He served as a Section Vice Chief in the Order of the Arrow. He also serves as a General Assembly Young Adult Advisory Delegate, representing the Presbytery of Albany of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Casey said in a statement: “It is a tremendous honor to serve the nearly 600,000 students of the State University of New York as their Student Assembly Vice President. In my role as Vice President, I will partake in the planning of SUNYSA Affairs and Events, and I look forward to pushing for the items in our newly adopted Advocacy Agenda. I ensure that in the one year, short span of time I serve, that I will represent SUNY and SUNYSA with dignity, honor, and integrity as our University System’s No. 2 student government official.”
Ally Chun, a sophomore at Binghamton University studying Politics, Philosophy and Law was elected President. Jake Longuil, a graduate student from Stony Brook University studying Applied Mathematics and Statistics, was elected Treasurer. Tasnia Zzoha, a sophomore from Nassau Community College studying Liberal Arts, was elected Secretary. Terms for the officers began on June 1. Seeking further comment, I interviewed Casey. Here is the chat:
DJ: What made you decide to run for elective office?
MC: I chose to run for the Vice President of SUNY Student Assembly because I wanted to ensure that there was leadership that counted. I was sick and tired of the inner politics within the organization, and I wanted to come in and provide a steady hand in the leadership of the Assembly to get ourselves our of this horrid time in the Student Assembly.
DJ: Describe your transition from high school to SUNY Adirondack now to Plattsburgh.
MC: My transition from Greenwich Junior-Senior High School to SUNY Adirondack was flawless. Instead of driving just five minutes or walking about 10 minutes to class, I had to drive about 40 minutes to class, and it was like high school but in a larger pool of students at SUNY Adirondack. My transition from SUNY Adirondack to SUNY Plattsburgh was seamless, as I had already known what to do and how to do it!
DJ: Should more students take the transfer path like you did?
MC: I would recommend any students to go to a community college first and then go off to a four year school in the SUNY System. It may not be as glamorous as going directly to a four year school, but it saves you a lot of money. You will thank me for that advice in the long run.
DJ: How do you like it there in Plattsburgh?
MC: I only went up to Plattsburgh about once a month to meet with a professor in my class and work with the Student Association folks on issues within the Association last semester, Fall 2021, and I love that city. It is a beautiful city on Lake Champlain, with lots of places to go get a good cup of coffee or get a bite to eat.
DJ: I hear there has been some controversy with the SUNY Chancellor Search and lack of student involvement in the selection process. What is the issue there and has it been resolved? What are next steps?
MC: I am well aware of the issues with the lack of involvement in the process to select our next chancellor. For some information, the Chancellor is the CEO of the SUNY System. They are in charge of our institution and set the course for where our institution goes for their term of service. I am very concerned with the lack of student and community college involvement in the Chancellor’s selection process. In regards to the student involvement, I think it lies with the lack of confidence that the administration and trustees rightfully have in student leadership because of what has happened in the Student Assembly over the past year.
DJ: What was that about?
MC: The Student Assembly passed a No Confidence resolution against Chancellor [Jim] Malatras after the emails and text messages came out.
DJ: Well, you had to take a stand on the matter. What else did the Student Assembly accomplish?
MC: We also passed our Advocacy Agenda, which includes points we will lobby for in the State Legislature and System Administration, and we did have one of those ideas pass the State Legislature. It was the Hunger Free Campuses Act. The other thing we did was hold a forum with the Board of Trustees where students could openly express themselves and share their ideas to their system leadership.
DJ: Those sound great. What other big issues will SUNY SA address this coming academic year?
MC: We need to work on how we discuss diversity issues in the organization itself. We need to work on how we can make racial minorities feel safe in the communities in the Upstate region where the majority of our SUNY campuses are. We need to work on improving how we involve students in ideas to paper as to what they want brought up to the System Administration and the Legislature of the State of New York.
DJ: Any plans for you personally this summer?
MC: I hope to work as a lock operator for the New York State Canal Corporation on the Champlain Canal and have some relaxation and continuing the Advocacy that my fellow SUNY Students are calling me to do, even over summer break.