Urge Albany and City Hall to Fund the New Deal for CUNY
New York, NY – Assemblymembers Reyes, Burgos, Fernandez and González-Rojas joined CUNY Rising Alliance groups, including the Professional Staff Congress, today at the Borough of Manhattan Community College for a press conference to demand a voice in how the remaining $386 million in COVID emergency aid for CUNY is spent. Senators Gounardes and Biaggi and Councilmembers Gibson and Reynoso added their support as well.
During a press conference, the groups laid out priorities for the one-time money, including rehiring laid-off adjuncts, adding full-time mental health counselors and advisors, and improving ventilation and other infrastructure to help reduce the spread of COVID on campus. Speakers emphasized that the emergency aid is meant to sustain NYC’s underfunded public university through the pandemic and cannot be used as an excuse to cut CUNY funding or to continue underfunding the University. CUNY’s NYC allocation for this year was reduced by $67 million, leaving the University to backfill the cut with Federal stimulus.
Participants underscored the need for new, long-term investment in the city’s public higher education system to reverse years of disinvestment and expand the ranks of faculty and professional staff. In the 2021 legislative session, Senator Andrew Gournardes and Assemblymember Karine Reyes introduced the New Deal for CUNY (ND4C), legislation that would require minimum ratios of faculty and mental health counselors to students and make CUNY tuition-free. Both Albany and City Hall would need to increase investment in CUNY to meet the required ratios, which would phase in over five years.
“Our federal stimulus funds should be utilized in the best interest of our institutions. Throughout this pandemic CUNY has faced unprecedented challenges and the time is now for local campuses to implement innovative investments on our CUNY campuses. New York City’s comeback starts with equitable investment into our CUNY community, and we have a chance to get it done and make a difference,” said Juvanie Piquant, chair of the CUNY University Student Senate.
“Even as New York’s college students return to in-person courses, they return to conditions worse than their pre-pandemic state. The facilities and existing social emotional programs at CUNY campuses do not meet the current standards necessary to provide students with a safe and adequate education. I am proud to sponsor the New Deal for CUNY to provide a transformational investment in our public higher education system, through investing capital funds, establishing mental health counseling ratios and making the system tuition-free. This legislation is vital to ensuring that our next generation’s leaders and thinkers have a system that can provide them with the world-class education that they are entitled to,” said Assemblymember Karines Reyes, R.N, Assembly sponsor of the New Deal for CUNY.
“I am proud to echo CUNY Rising Alliance’s call that the remaining stimulus money for CUNY be released in a timely and transparent manner. These emergency funds were expressly allocated for staff and course offerings–and we must ensure the funds go to exactly that. But the conversation is about more than a one-time down payment. It’s critical we pass the New Deal for CUNY to protect this critical resource for the working and middle class for the long term. By re-establishing CUNY as an engine of social and economic mobility, we will prepare our students for the workforce of the future and revitalize our economy.“ Senator Andrew Gounardes, Senate sponsor of the New Deal for CUNY.
“The students and faculty of CUNY have been deeply impacted by this pandemic. It has resulted in layoffs of facility members and mental health issues for students. It is essential that this stimulus money is used to provide the necessary resources to maintain funding and ensure that everyone at this academic institution is on the right path towards a successful future,” said Assemblymember Kenny Burgos.
“We need to ensure that as schools open again that there is transparency about how the funds that our CUNYs receive are spent. Those who work at our universities know the best way to spend these funds and they deserve a voice in how they are being allocated,” said Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez.
“We’re urging the colleges to consult with the faculty, staff and students that you serve in the communities you serve about how to spend the federal stimulus funds. Students and faculty alike want smaller class sizes, whether they are studying in brick-and-mortar classrooms or a Zoom room. They want health and safety protections, and they want adjuncts to be rehired,” said James Davis, President of the Professional Staff Congress.
“I stand with my colleagues in government and CUNY Rising Alliance groups to echo their demands that emergency aid be used to rehire laid-off adjuncts, add full-time mental health counselors and advisors, and improve infrastructure to help reduce the spread of COVID on campus. Funds must be used to address the needs of students and faculty, and ultimately, to keep campus users healthy and safe in the face of the COVID pandemic. I will continue to fight for full and fair funding of the CUNY system because of the invaluable role that the institution plays in educating New Yorkers,” said Councilmember Antonio Reynoso.
“CUNY has long served as a beacon of hope for New Yorkers, providing a pathway of economic mobility and opportunity for all. However, CUNY continues to suffer from budget cuts which disproportionately impact the students who need it the most. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and attempts to defund CUNY, the $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funding awarded to CUNY is essential. However, until it reaches classrooms, this funding is meaningless. The CUNY administration must release the remaining $386 million in funds and aid those it was created to serve: the students. An investment in the students and staff of CUNY is an investment in New York City, ” said Senator Alessandra Biaggi.
“The federal stimulus from the Biden administration gives us a chance to reinvest money into our public universities that were devastated by COVID-19. We need action now from CUNY to hire mental health specialists that can provide trauma-informed care, infrastructural improvements to the ventilation systems to ensure the health and well-being of our students, and a restoration of critical services that were cut as a result of the pandemic. I am joining with my colleagues, CUNY Rising Alliance, and education advocates to call on CUNY to release the federal stimulus funds and invest in our students.” Councilmember Vanessa Gibson.
“NYC needs CUNY to recover for the city to recover. CUNY students are the economic engine and every resource available should be used to make sure that students are in the classroom with the services that they need to excel.” Lucas Sanchez, Deputy Director, New York Communities for Change.
“Our requests to CUNY administrators are clear and simple. We request a voice in the allocation process of the remaining $386 million that is budgeted. We need to sustain our underfunded public university through the pandemic because it is a resource and lifeline for many New Yorkers. These funds are vital to re-hire adjuncts that were laid off because of mid-pandemic budget cuts. Keep classes open for students, keep students enrolled, and protect the health and safety of our entire CUNY community.” said Rémysell Salas, Campaign Director for the CUNY Rising Alliance.