Dozens of students, faculty and staff from CUNY gathered downtown on May 11 to urge the City Council to restore City funding for CUNY.
Mayor Bloomberg’s latest plan to slash funding for CUNY would devastate our university system. His Preliminary Budget creates a $63.1 million deficit in CUNY’s community college operating budget: it provides $37.2 million fewer dollars than the FY2011 adopted budget and $25.9 million in unfunded mandatory expense increases, such as enrollment growth and new programs. It also provides no money for the City’s merit-based financial aid program, the Vallone Scholarship; no money for the Black male Initiative, a CUNY-wide program that provides mentorship and programming for at-risk students; and no funding for CUNY centers and institutes.
Ari Fiul was one of seven Queensborough Community College students and faculty who attended the event. This semester, Fiul was unable to register for required classes because his college has reduced available course offerings. “I work. I pay taxes. These services should be there,” he said.
Dozens of other students recruited by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and the University Student Senate (USS) also took part. The event was sponsored by NYPIRG, USS and the Professional Staff Congress (PSC).
Fiul and the other grassroots lobbyists attend meetings with council members at 250 Broadway and sat in on the Council’s stated meeting at Emigrant Savings Bank. (The Council Chambers at City Hall is being renovated.)
“Overcrowded classes, overworked faculty and staff, higher tuition and more students failing and dropping out—these are results we can expect if Mayor Bloomberg’s cuts are allowed to stand,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, as she described the need for student-faculty advocacy. “Once again, Bloomberg’s cuts reveal his utter insensitivity to the aspirations of working New Yorkers; by targeting CUNY he is undermining thousands of people trying to build better lives.”
State funding for CUNY Community Colleges has been cut repeatedly. Next year, the community colleges will have $12.3 million fewer dollars than FY2011. If CUNY community colleges lose more funding from the City side of their operating budget, the effects would be crippling.
Eileen Moran, a member of PSC’s Executive Committee, insisted that the City can do better for CUNY. “Austerity isn’t inevitable. It’s a political choice. And I hope you will fight for these kids.”” she said to Cleveland Beckett, chief of staff for Council Member Larry Seabrook.
Beckett was stunned to hear that students are graduating late or considering dropping out because the courses they need to graduate aren’t being offered. “You brought it home. It’s shocking to hear that this is happening to students,” he said, after hearing from David Rosenberg, a Biology major from Brooklyn College and member of NYPIRG who couldn’t get in to a required class in the fall or the spring.
Instead of more cuts, the student-faculty coalition urged the Council to invest in CUNY by fully funding the community colleges, restoring Vallone, BMI and the centers and institutes to 2009 levels and investing in CUNY’s physical plant.
In recent years, the City Council has acted to restore much of the funding that the Mayor has proposed to cut from CUNY. Students, faculty and staff are counting on them again this year.