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Students, Legislators and Union Leaders Stage Last-Minute Virtual Budget rally for CUNY, SUNY

Apr 02, 2021

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April 1, 2021: More than 1000 CUNY and SUNY faculty, staff and students and higher education union leaders sent an unmistakable message to state legislators at a pop-up virtual rally April 1: now is the time to provide increased funding for New York’s public higher education systems in the 2021-2022 state budget.

Called “All in for SUNY & CUNY,” the event was streamed live via Zoom and served as a final push for public higher education funding by students, legislators and union leaders before the budget is approved.

“This is our last chance to let the Legislature and the governor know that CUNY and SUNY deserve their fair share in the new state budget,” said Frederick E. Kowal, president of United University Professions. “From funding for hazard pay for our brave frontline health care workers at SUNY’s public teaching hospitals to aid to end the TAP Gap and expand SUNY’s opportunity programs, we believe every dollar proposed for public higher education should be delivered in this budget. The underfunding of SUNY has become chronic. This year, with billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 funds allocated to New York, is the year things must change.”

“What we’re fighting for here is systematic change, a policy for higher education that ends decades of planned poverty and allows our students and patients to thrive,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY. “This year, we are closer than we’ve been in a decade to getting significantly more funding for public higher education. Our message is simple: the people of New York need every increase proposed by the Assembly and Senate included in the final budget, and the state needs to end the tax breaks for the rich. This is the time to make that push.”

Advocates took a break midway through the hour-long virtual event to take part in a tweet storm aimed at Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, urging them to support increased funding for public higher education in the state budget. Participants also phoned their elected state officials to push for more state aid for CUNY and SUNY.
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Several state legislators joined the rally, including Senate members Leroy Comrie, Brad Hoylman and Robert Jackson, and Assemblymembers Harvey Epstein and Billy Jones. Their message: keep making those calls.

“Please keep the pressure on our leaders and all of our state senators and assembly members and keep pushing because it’s not over until it’s over,” Senator Jackson said.

“We’re going to keep moving forward for CUNY and SUNY and we’re trying to get as much money as possible for services that students need,” said Assemblymember Epstein.

Student leaders also made a strong push for funding for CUNY and SUNY during the rally.

“We are at the home stretch of this budget and now we must give it all that we can to ensure higher education receives funding this year,” said CUNY University Student Senate Chairperson Juvanie Piquant. “The time is now for us to invest in CUNY and SUNY.”

“As we approach the 9th inning of the budget process, we must keep in mind our commitment to affordability and accessibility across public higher education,” said Bradley Hershenson, SUNY Student Assembly president, noting that it was opening day for Major League Baseball. “Protecting the investment in SUNY will yield great benefits to the state of New York as our faculty, staff, alumni and student colleagues repay that investment through their taxes and contributions to their communities for years to come. We strongly urge the Legislature and the governor to hit it out of the park and pass a budget that fully supports our great University.”

Members from UUP and PSC also spoke strongly in support of increased funding for CUNY and SUNY.

“What a sign of strength,” said Pamela Malone, a UUP Executive Board member and Empire State College chapter president. “We are coming together in the final hours to let our officials know that we are here and we are strong.”

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