PSC members and CUNY students protest against Eric Adams’s budget cuts outside City Hall on May 11. (Credit: Scott Heins)
One door closes and another one opens.
In May, after an intense PSC organizing campaign, state leaders came to a budget agreement that increased the state’s contribution to CUNY from last year. After lobbying lawmakers, demonstrating and mobilizing members, the union emerged victorious, announcing that CUNY would get more than $100 million in new operating aid, $1.1 billion in capital funding (double what the governor first proposed) and new funding for SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge) and nursing programs. The governor’s proposal to increase tuition was also defeated.
It’s good news for CUNY. But Mayor Eric Adams’ city budget proposal seeks to roll back much of that progress through deep cuts to CUNY that would hit community colleges the hardest. At a May 11 rally at the Tweed Courthouse near City Hall, PSC members, students, elected officials and other supporters demanded that the mayor reverse course.
“We are not ‘bare minimum’ type of people. We are tired of restorations. We want to level up,” said Salimatou Doumbouya, chair of the CUNY University Student Senate. “We don’t say ‘No cuts to CUNY,’ we act ‘No cuts to CUNY.’”
The proposed cuts follow previous midyear cuts from City Hall that have already crippled agencies, including CUNY. “As a result, colleges have been focused on cuts, rather than increasing revenue. This has meant hiring freezes and unstaffed lines that won’t be filled,” said Sharon Utakis, the PSC vice president for community colleges. “But when that’s not enough, the colleges are turning to cutting the jobs of contingent faculty and part-time staff. At Bronx Community College, I’ve been hearing that the plan is to cut three-year adjunct appointments again, which undermines our contract and means that some of our most experienced adjuncts will no longer be teaching. These cuts are horrible for those who lose their jobs and demoralizing to all involved. They increase the workload of those who keep their jobs, and they are bad for students.”
Speaker after speaker derided the mayor, a two-time CUNY graduate, for proposing unnecessary cuts that would gut vital programs. “Whose dreams is he willing to trample on?” PSC President James Davis asked.
Eric Dinowitz, the chair of the City Council’s Committee on Higher Education, called the mayor’s cuts “fiscally irresponsible,” and others pointed out that CUNY funding is an investment in the city’s future workforce. Dinowitz was joined by his City Council colleagues Christopher Marte, Charles Barron, Pierina Ana Sanchez, Carmen De La Rosa, Alexa Avilés and Shahana Hanif.
City Comptroller Brad Lander spoke at the rally. Just days before, he had released a study on how the mayor’s cuts to CUNY would negatively impact the entire city. For instance, half of new NYC nurses are CUNY graduates, and about a third of new public school teachers are CUNY graduates, he said. The report noted that the mayor’s proposed $41 million in cuts annually to CUNY would reduce faculty positions and course offerings across the system’s community colleges and endanger the expansion of “successful programs such as CUNY Reconnect, Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) and Accelerate, Complete, and Engage (ACE).”
Also in attendance were Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Assembly Member Karines Reyes and a representative from the office of Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Anger against the mayor’s directives has continued to grow. A day after the rally, several CUNY School of Law graduates protested the mayor’s graduation speech. The City Council’s progressive caucus has called for much more funding for city agencies, countering the mayor’s austerity agenda.
“Thankfully the City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Adrienne Adams, has a plan that better meets the needs of CUNY students and PSC members,” Davis said in a statement. “We urge the mayor and his administration to collaborate with the Council and reach a deal that’s good for CUNY and good for the City of New York.”
Published: June 21, 2023