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CONTACT: Mike Lisi (518) 640-6600
Lisi’s cell number: (518) 944-9528


August 20, 2009

UUP: SUNY students returning to budget-starved campuses

Students at the State University of New York are heading back to many campuses where budget cuts have taken a heavy toll, according to the president of the nation’s largest higher education union. Phillip H. Smith, president of United University Professions (UUP), says that the sharp budget cuts instituted last year for SUNY threaten the quality of education students will be receiving this fall semester.

“For more than a year, we’ve been sounding the alarm about how devastating the budget cuts to SUNY are and will be to students, their families and communities,” Smith said. “So much of what we projected has unfortunately come to pass.”

Based on a review of published information on SUNY’s state-operated campuses and on reports from UUP leaders on those campuses, UUP finds that campuses across the state have cut staff and/or positions, imposed hiring freezes, boosted the size of their classes, or increased their reliance on adjuncts. Campuses cutting staff and/or positions include UAlbany, where 105 faculty positions have been eliminated, and the University at Buffalo’s Health Sciences Center, where 10 long-term faculty are not being renewed and the rehabilitation medicine unit is closing. The other SUNY campuses hit by job cutbacks: Buffalo State, Canton, Fredonia, New Paltz, Plattsburgh, Potsdam and Upstate Medical University. A dozen campuses have a hiring freeze in place: Albany, Binghamton, Brockport, Canton, Cortland, Fredonia, Geneseo, New Paltz, Oneonta, Plattsburgh, Potsdam and Upstate Medical. At least six campuses have increased the size of their classes: Cortland, Fredonia, Geneseo, New Paltz, Plattsburgh and Purchase. Four campus are relying more heavily on adjuncts: Cortland, Farmingdale, Plattsburgh and Purchase.

“When enrollment at SUNY is expected to reach record levels, this is the worst time to sacrifice quality by cutting faculty and courses and increasing class sizes,” Smith said. “The state of the economy has led to a surge in applications, as more and more families look to send their children to SUNY as an affordable alternative. We can’t afford to provide the next generation of New Yorkers with a less than top-notch higher education. We need more – not less – full-time faculty to teach these growing numbers of students.”

Smith is asking the governor and state lawmakers to take SUNY’s economic plight into consideration and find ways to minimize any further financial impacts for the rest of the state’s current fiscal year as well in the 2009-10 fiscal year. Smith is also calling upon SUNY to use the $75 million in reserves that the Legislature authorized in this year’s budget. The funds are targeted to prevent any further erosion of academic quality, to stop increases in class sizes, and to avoid cancelled classes.

“SUNY must be properly funded to meet its mission: to offer an affordable, quality education to all qualified students,” Smith 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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