For the third consecutive year, the University Student Senate of the City University of New York (USS CUNY) held its annual “March in March” on Saturday, urging lawmakers in Albany to freeze a tuition hike and invest in the financially strapped CUNY, before they pass the final budget on April 1st, 2019.
Speaking to a crowd of CUNY students, CUNY faculty and staff, as well as community leaders and student organizers at a press conference outside City Hall, USS Chairperson Khan made it clear that a tuition hike would pose a financial burden on CUNY students. He said, “How is it that we can promote free college and have so many students pay $200 more? $200 may not mean a lot to Governor Cuomo, but $200 means a lot to our students. $200 is the difference between buying a MetroCard or putting food on the table or paying your tuition bills.”
Khan was joined by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a CUNY graduate who pointed out that the most significant expansion of CUNY happened during the Great Depression. Expanding CUNY during a financial downturn and hard economic times was needed to help every New Yorker to climb out of disparity by having access to a proper education. Jumaane Williams, “If you can have the biggest expansion of CUNY during the Great Depression, CUNY can be free in 2019.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and CUNY PSC President Professor Barbara Bowen, as well as Hercules Reid, former Student Government President for City Tech and Democratic candidate for City Council, also urged the Governor and Mayor to provide fair funding for CUNY.
Gale Brewer, who served on the City Council’s Higher Education Committee during her time as City Councilwoman, “The Governor and the Mayor have got to understand that their first priority should be to CUNY, no question about it.” She continued, “Every time a CUNY student graduates, they stay in New York City, they help the economy of New York City.”
Hercules Reid recounted his time as a CUNY student advocate. “Very often the narrative is that students go to CUNY for free, very often the narrative also leaves out that these same students are food insecure, they lack mental health services, they do not receive financial aid, and they are homeless. Throughout the six years that I was a CUNY student and advocate, tuition hikes and budget cuts have been more reliable than the officials I spoke to. It’s time for leaders of this community to rise up for both, equity and justice. We must continue to advocate for opportunities and options for all New Yorkers.”
Barbara Bowen called out the attempts by some local and state lawmakers during the CUNY’s union contract negotiations to divide CUNY faculty and students. “They say to us, if you want more in your contract, let’s raise the student tuition. We said no. That is not the way to fund this university, and at heart, when we fight for CUNY we are fighting for the principles that working people, working class people, people of color, immigrants, women in this city, deserve a good education, not a third rate education, not a second rate education, but a first-rate great education.”
Following the press conference, CUNY students alongside faculty and staff marched across the Brooklyn Bridge towards Brooklyn Borough Hall where they were joined by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a graduate of two CUNY campuses, the New York City College of Technology and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He urged students to register to vote and to elect candidates who are going to advocate on behalf of CUNY faculty, staff, and students.
CUNY has long experienced drastic cuts in funding which have led to class overcrowding, a shortage of full-time faculty, a failing infrastructure, and reductions in vital services for students. At the same time, tuition rates have gone up, creating a financial hardship for many CUNY students, mostly low-income New Yorkers, immigrants and people of color. CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY) has been without a contract since November 2017; as part of its campaign for a new agreement, the union is asking to increase the adjunct pay from $3,500 to $7,000 per class as well as funding to repair CUNY’s aging campuses.
Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were willing to shell out $3 billion dollars in tax subsidies to Amazon for bringing its headquarters to New York City (a deal that has since fallen through due to grassroots opposition) because they deemed the deal imperative for New York’s economic and financial future. Isn’t it time that both, Cuomo and de Blasio showed the same level of financial courtesy to the largest university in New York City? After all, CUNY students are the real future of this city; they are the leaders of tomorrow who were shaped and educated by dedicated CUNY faculty and adjunct professors. One thing is for sure, unlike billionaire and Amazon CEO Bezos who paid $0 in federal taxes for the second year in a row according to a report by CNBC, CUNY graduates are going to have to pay their share in federal taxes.
“March in March” Photo Gallery