The following is taken (with slight edits) from the website of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) at City University of New York, which represents faculty and professional staff at CUNY. The PSC is affiliated with the AAUP.
“C-U-N-Y Don’t let CUNY die!” was the chant Thursday as more than 40 faculty and staff from the City University of New York locked arms and lay down blocking the doors and sidewalk outside Governor Cuomo’s midtown office building as hundreds more demonstrated in solidarity. The “die in,” held as State budget negotiations reach their final stage, expressed the demand that the final State budget include increased investment in CUNY students and that it fund a contract for CUNY’s faculty and staff, who have worked six years without a raise.
CUNY would have $637 million more today, according to NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, if its funding had grown at pace with the State budget in recent years. Instead, the University has been starved of resources. It lacks the funding to offer competitive salaries for its 25,000 faculty and professional staff, tuition has gone up annually, and per-student State funding for CUNY senior colleges has declined 3% since the governor took office.
Following a public outcry in response to the Governor’s initial budget proposal for CUNY, the Cuomo administration has stated that CUNY funding “will not change under this budget.” [Today the New York Daily News reported that Cuomo has backed off his push to shift $485 million in state CUNY costs on to the city. Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever Thursday said the state will foot the entire $1.6 billion in government operating costs for CUNY as long as the state Legislature agrees to hire a management efficiency expert to look for savings at the city and state university systems.] CUNY supporters throughout the city are holding Cuomo to his word on that pledge. But professors and students say restoring support to its previous level is not enough: years of underfunding have endangered the quality of education at CUNY. Many State and City legislators have spoken out in support of increased State investment in CUNY. What’s at stake for CUNY’s half-million mostly low-income, mostly minority students is economic survival and a chance for a better life.
“For thousands of New Yorkers, especially those living in poverty, CUNY represents their one shot at a a good life. We believe that shot must not be taken away. That’s why students, faculty and staff are risking arrest and taking a strong action to expose how high the stakes are in the budget decisions about CUNY. We call on Albany to finalize the State budget in a way that breaks the pattern of disinvestment and champions educational justice,” said Barbara Bowen, president of CUNY’s faculty and staff union, the Professional Staff Congress.
Groups from the CUNY Rising Alliance, a new and broad coalition of CUNY allies, joined the rally and supported the ‘die in.’ The CUNY Rising Alliance, which includes New York Communities for Change, Make the Road NY, Working Families Party, the New York City Central Labor Council and many other groups, is calling for a tuition freeze, financial aid improvements and investments in CUNY, rather than cuts.
As police placed protesters under arrest and zip-tied their wrists outside the governor’s office, hundreds of CUNY students, faculty, staff and community supporters rallied across the street. Their signs read “Invest in CUNY—Invest in New York,” “Freeze Tuition,” and “CUNY is for the People.”
CUNY faculty and staff represented by the PSC have been working without a contract for six years. The union has authorized a strike vote.