SUNY faculty union rallies for funding increase
United University Professions rally statewide, discuss budget ‘shortfalls’
United University Professions, the SUNY faculty union, rallied for more state funding for SUNY on Feb. 25 at Buffalo State College and at other campuses statewide.
Roughly 70 UB and Buffalo State UUP leaders and students, many wearing red in support of UUP, met in Buffalo State’s Campbell Student Union at 12:30 p.m. to hear speeches from state, state and UUP leaders and officials.
SUNY schools like Buffalo State, Fredonia and New Paltz are “struggling” to close budget deficits, partly due to what UUP calls “dwindling” state funding. The deficits are due to an increase in the “TAP gap,” which UUP defines as “the difference between full SUNY tuition and the amount campuses are allowed to charge TAP-eligible students.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2020-21 executive budget doesn’t include UUP’s proposed $87 million state subsidy for SUNY’s public teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse. It also does not include UUP’s $75 million demand to “close the gap” for SUNY’s state-operated campuses.
Gov. Cuomo’s office did not respond in time for publication.
Alex DeSha, a Buffalo State graduate student and UB proposal manager, said SUNY hasn’t fulfilled its reputation for putting students’ needs first.
“When I was looking to expand my education, SUNY was there for me,” Desha said. “When I go to my doctor, it’s a SUNY-educated doctor. When I go to my dentist, it’s a SUNY-educated dentist. SUNY has been there for us. We have made an impact on the world after facing a decade of flat funding and budget cuts. But it is time for us to enact a vision of what we can do for New York state and the world.”
UUP points to an increase from 2007-20 in the TAP gap. The increase, the group cites, caused a $660 million drop in direct state aid to SUNY campuses. Because of the increase, SUNY schools are earning $2,000 less per student in tuition, money that is not replaced by an increase in the state budget, which then reduces a school’s revenue.
Philip Glick, professor of surgery and medicine at UB, said the budget places the schools’ problems in students’ hands.
“What we’re asking now is to have a budget that provides operations, provides all the raises that have been given, provides all the maintenance that has been deferred,” Glick said. “Stop putting it on the backs of students. We want an adequate budget.”
Speakers encouraged attendees to fill out protest postcards to send to the governor’s office, waved signs that read “Billionaires, pay your taxes” and “Our SUNY, our future” and shared their experiences with the budget deficit increases.
“I thought [the turnout] was good,” UUP President Fred Kowal said. “It’s always difficult in the middle of the school day for students to step away, for faculty as well. There was some real interest in being heard and that’s what we need.”
Gaelle Jean-Baptiste, president of the Buffalo State United Students Government, said she works three jobs on top of her regular coursework to pay for college.
“What we are fighting for here is worth the cause and I hope we can make a difference here,” Jean-Baptiste said.
The crowd of supporters wore stickers that read “REAL progress for SUNY” and often erupted in chants calling for the state to “fund SUNY now.”
UUP leaders say they hope to create an environment where students come first.
“[Securing funding] is without a doubt for the students’ needs and that does make us unique as a union,” Kowa said. “It’s the idea that we can’t just be about ourselves, we’re public servants and we serve students, we serve patients, it has to be about them.”
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