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May 2, 2008

Union, advocates rally to release SUNY funds

Chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, SUNY cuts have got to go,” more than 300 members of United University Professions and other advocates rallied at the state Capitol in Albany urging Gov. Paterson to allow SUNY to spend nearly $110 million in revenues it collects from students and hospital patients that the state Division of the Budget has frozen.

“This is not taxpayers’ money—this is money that college students and their families have paid to SUNY for tuition, room and board, and other fees,” said UUP President Phillip H. Smith. “This is money SUNY hospital patients have paid for health care. Students and patients deserve to get the services from SUNY for which they’ve paid.”

Unless these funds are restored, Smith warned that access to SUNY will be curtailed, courses will be cancelled, class sizes will swell, and the quality of SUNY’s academic programs and hospital patient care will erode.

“This plan will dismantle the State University system,” Smith said.

NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said withholding money that SUNY receives from tuition, dormitory fees and other payments “is the wrong approach at the wrong time. In tough economic times, the state should be investing more in SUNY and in students who will ultimately fill the high-quality jobs created by business here in New York state.”

NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin said with enrollment at a record high, and the state’s economy lagging, New York should be increasing funds to public higher education. “SUNY is the spark that will ignite upstate New York’s economic revitalization. We call on Gov. Paterson to reject this damaging plan that hurts students and SUNY.”

“When students pay tuition and dorm fees, we expect those dollars to be used to run the University,” said Cheryl Lynch, NYPIRG chairperson and a student from Stony Brook University. “Shrunken course offerings, increased class sizes, and a decline in student services may be all we get for our money if SUNY isn’t allowed full access to its revenue.”

UAlbany students Chelsea Cawley and Jess Reid echoed Lynch’s comments at the rally. Several state lawmakers also addressed the demonstrators.

Smith called on the governor to rescue SUNY by releasing the $109.4 million in revenues to allow SUNY to operate. He noted SUNY has already been hit with a $38 million state budget cut this year, and that SUNY expects to enroll its largest-ever freshman class next fall.

UUP represents 35,000 academic and professional faculty on 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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