Spitzer Scandal Shadows NYU Students' Lobbying Efforts

This story was written by Nick Brennan, Washington Square News
It was a brisk spring day in Albany Tuesday, but within the wood-panelled walls of the Capitol Building, a sense of uncertainty lingered.

The day before, allegations tied Gov. Eliot Spitzer to an international prostitution ring. Tuesday, legislators and their staffs were still trying to regain a sense of normalcy, meeting with the usual throngs of lobbyists and constituent groups.

Among them: A small delegation of NYU students. They traveled to Albany Tuesday, along with 500 other college students from across New York state, to support state funding for student aid programs, several of which were cut or flat-funded by Spitzer's original budget in late January.

The organizer of the lobbying day, the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, planned the event nearly a year in advance to coincide with the period when the state legislature hammers out its own budget -- a process that was thrown into uncertainty after news of the scandal broke on Monday.

As the students traveled around the capitol meeting with legislators and their staff, the Spitzer scandal was impossible to ignore.

Steinhardt sophomore Joshua Xavier, who traveled with the NYU delegation, said the allegations against the governor impacted the discussions he had in Albany.

"It felt like the legislators were very careful about what they said more so because of the scandal," he said. "Did it affect our trip? Absolutely. Everyone seemed to be more quiet, more reserved."

Nancy Kehoe, a legislative assistant for State Sen. Tom Duane, whose district includes NYU, still had not recovered from the shock. From Duane's office in the Legislative Building Tuesday, she said she was still trying to digest the news.

"Right now, everything is up in the air," she said. "We'll have to see how things play out. It just doesn't seem real."

After the surprise subsides, Capitol legislators will have to return to the reality of passing the state budget. Marcia Maxwell, assistant director for state relations at NYU and the leader of the NYU Albany delegation, said that if anything, the budget process would move faster now.

"I think that we may get a quicker budget because the legislators are going to want to deal with the issues at hand with the governor, whoever the governor may be," Maxwell said.

If Spitzer chooses to resign, Lt. Gov. David Paterson will take over as governor, a process that could be a smooth one, according to Theresa Swidorski, legislative director for Assemblywoman Deborah Glick - another representative of NYU's district.

"I think we will do just fine as far as the process goes," she said. "The lieutenant governor is a well-regarded Democrat, so if he becomes governor, I think it will be a seamless transition."
© 2008 Washington Square News via U-WIRE