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January 24, 2008

UUP: Commission report sells SUNY short

The preliminary report by the governor’s Commission on Higher Education perpetuates rather than resolves the critical problems facing the State University of New York, according to the leader of United University Professions, the union that represents academic and professional faculty at SUNY.

Testifying before the Assembly Standing Committee on Higher Education, UUP Acting President Frederick G. Floss stressed that the Commission’s recommendations would not solve a 15-year decline in academic quality at SUNY. During that time, he said 900 full-time SUNY faculty positions have been eliminated, while student enrollment has grown by 45,000.

“Class sizes have increased significantly, faculty-student ratios have risen to dangerously high levels, the number of available courses has been reduced, and far too many of our students are forced to compete for the classes they need for graduation,” Floss testified.

While he welcomes the Commission’s findings that more full-time faculty are needed, Floss said the panel’s recommendation to add 2,000 new full-time faculty positions at SUNY and CUNY combined does not go far enough.

“If the faculty-student ratios that existed in the 1990s had been maintained, 1,600 more full-time faculty would now be working in our state-operated (SUNY) campuses to help educate New York’s students,” Floss said.

Floss questioned the Commission’s idea to establish a “compact” between the state and SUNY that would have the state pay for SUNY’s mandatory costs, but not the costs associated with enrollment growth. Without direct state aid, the expense for enrollment growth would have to come from tuition revenues, which Floss said would not be sufficient to cover the increased costs created by adding students.

“By this recommendation, the Commission is reaffirming the egregious state funding policy that is directly responsible for the loss of full-time faculty,” he said.

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 37,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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