What follows is a press release from the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York:
As Part of #ReclaimOurSchools, CUNY Faculty, Staff & Students Document Crumbling Facilities and Damaged Equipment
New York, NY – As part of a national day of action to highlight the importance of public education, City University of New York faculty, staff and students took photographs of leaky ceilings, cracked and crumbling walls, drinking-fountains with brown water and other evidence of underfunding and neglect. The photos were shared on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #ReclaimOurSchools. View a slideshow.
The physical disrepair at CUNY is only the tangible evidence of a deeper pattern of underinvestment. Adjusted for inflation, per-student State funding for CUNY senior colleges declined 14% from 2008 to 2015. The result of such disinvestment is that classes are overcrowded, the ratio of students to full-time faculty is far below acceptable levels, and facilities show the signs of endlessly deferred maintenance. Despite the heroic efforts of faculty, professional staff, maintenance staff and students, education suffers. The Professional Staff Congress/CUNY calls on New York City and New York State to make this the year that New York begins reinvestment in the country’s largest and oldest urban public university.
Nearly 500,000 New Yorkers, many of them low-income people of color, depend on CUNY to offer an opportunity for higher education that would otherwise be out of reach. Every year, CUNY requests State and City funding to address health and safety needs and keep campuses in good repair and up to code. But Albany and City Hall have not fully funded those requests. The University needs more funding for Critical Maintenance in its Capital Budget and more funding to ensure adequate staffing levels and resources for campus maintenance in its Operating Budget.
“Lehman College has top-flight students, faculty and staff,” said Professor Robert Farrell, Professional Staff Congress (PSC) Chapter Chair at Lehman College. “But despite an improving state economy, per-student funding for CUNY has fallen. As the operating budget fails to keep up with enrollment and the capital budget remains inadequate, maintenance issues are deferred, repairs are delayed, infrastructure deteriorates and technology becomes outdated. New York State needs to invest both operating and capital funding in CUNY.”
“Our local representatives in Albany and the City Council have helped make important investments in critical maintenance and capital improvements,” said Professor Sharon Utakis, PSC Chapter Chair at Bronx Community College. “But so many more repairs and upgrades are needed. Our hardworking staff do the best they can under the circumstances, but there are still so many things that need to be fixed after decades of neglect. Just look at these photos.”
Tangles of wiring hanging from ceiling gashes, ceiling leaks with jury-rigged drip catches, broken windows, discolored drinking water and broken smoke detectors and fire alarm boxes were among the most disturbing images.
The social media campaign was part of the third Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools’ nationally coordinated mobilizations. Students, educators, parents, community allies took actions in over 2000 public schools in 200 cities across the nation on Thursday, October 6, 2016.