A thousand faculty, staff and students from the City University of New York gathered on the steps of City Hall and again at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on May 5 to protest budget cuts they say are decimating the city's higher education system.
Led by the AFT-affiliated Professional Staff Congress, the crowd rallied to "puncture the myth of economic austerity, used by Albany and City Hall to justify massive budget cuts," said PSC president and AFT vice president Barbara Bowen. CUNY has suffered $107 million in cuts this year, and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has proposed another $63 million in direct aid reductions and unfunded expense increases for community colleges—all at a time when wealthy New Yorkers have received $5 billion in tax breaks.
Cuts already have resulted in overcrowded classrooms, fewer full-time faculty positions, less time for student mentoring and guidance, underpaid adjuncts and increased tuition.
"As a result of the mayor's refusal to make affordable higher education a priority, students will be faced with larger class sizes and overextended faculty, making it even more difficult for them to achieve a timely graduation," said City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, who joined the rally.
"We are here today because we are determined to resist the cheapening of a CUNY education," said Bowen. "That cheapening happens every time funds are cut and we are forced to make due with fewer books in the libraries, older equipment in the labs, inadequate numbers of full-time faculty, scandalous conditions for part-time faculty, oversized classes and spiraling tuition costs."
The mayor's budget must be approved by the City Council, and the PSC is working to persuade council members to close hedge fund tax loopholes and increase high-income tax rates so that CUNY can continue to provide educational opportunity to all New Yorkers. "The choice is clear," said PSC first vice president Steve London. "Close tax loopholes on the hedge funds or deny opportunity to CUNY's students." [Virginia Myers, Professional Staff Congress]
May 11, 2011