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February 5, 2010
UUP rallies to save SUNY, fight deregulation
ALBANY — Chanting, “You say cut back, we say fight back” and “Hey hey, ho ho, SUNY flex has got to go,” more than 300 members of United University Professions and their statewide affiliate NYSUT rallied at the state Capitol in Albany urging the state Legislature to eliminate yet another budget reduction for SUNY contained in Gov. Paterson’s proposed state budget and to reject his proposal that would virtually deregulate the University.
“SUNY has borne more than its share of budget cuts,” said UUP President Phillip H. Smith. “If the governor’s proposed $118 million reduction goes through, SUNY would have lost $528 million over the last two years, or 25 percent of its operating budget. Students are already suffering with bloated class sizes and cancelled courses, leading to delayed graduations. We can’t afford to sacrifice tomorrow’s workforce and the state’s economic future,” he said.
Smith and the demonstrators also called on lawmakers to reject the governor’s proposed Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act.
“This should really be called the Public Higher Education Endangerment and Injury Act,” Smith said, explaining the so-called ‘flexibility’ initiative would have disastrous effects on SUNY and its students. He warned that under the bill, tuition could rise by 10 percent in a single year, and increase even more by giving individual campuses the authority to set their own undergraduate tuition rates.
“Not only would this price SUNY out of reach for many students, it would also allow the state to shirk its responsibility for funding its public university,” Smith said. “And giving campuses the power to negotiate their own leases, contracts and joint ventures opens the door to revenue-making deals that puts students a distant second.”
Joining Smith at the rally was NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta.
“While SUNY’s faculty and staff have done miraculous work in maintaining quality academic programs for their students with significantly fewer state resources, the fact is that we are now at a breaking point,” said Pallotta. “UUP, NYSUT and other education advocates have put forward real alternatives to the governor’s job-killing cuts that will do nothing but slow New York’s economic recovery and irreparably harm to students and the neediest New Yorkers.”
Smith said UUP also wants lawmakers to increase the state subsidy for SUNY’s three teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse which hasn’t been raised in more than a decade.
He also called on lawmakers to restore budget funding for the New York State Theatre Institute and protect the educational programs and internships it provides. The governor proposes to eliminate funding for NYSTI and have it rely on ticket sales. Smith said NYSTI could not survive under that scenario.
State lawmakers, including Sen. Roy McDonald and Assemblymen Jack McEneny, Bob Reilly and Tim Gordon, also were expected to speak.
UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 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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