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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 14, 2010
Union leader testifies before legislators
ALBANY – Efforts to increase college students’ retention and academic achievement cannot succeed if the ranks of full-time faculty continue to diminish. That strong assertion was delivered by Phillip H. Smith, president of United University Professions, today during a public hearing on the role New York colleges play in furthering those goals.
Testifying before the state Assembly Higher Education Committee, Smith said personal interaction between teacher and pupil is critical to student success.
“Higher education, as a labor intensive service, requires faculty student ratios that provide sufficient contact hours and counseling. There must be enough full-time faculty to ensure that students are matched with the appropriate academic counselors and curriculum,” he said.
But Smith said $585 million in state budget cuts over the past two years to the State University of New York’s state-operated campuses have eroded SUNY’s ability to give students the support they need.
“Unfortunately, the events of the past two years have fully negated the University’s ability to provide those critical services. Cutbacks have forced campuses to severely compromise quality – especially with respect to the sufficiency of full-time faculty,” Smith testified.
Smith said the reductions are more than the total amount of state support provided to SUNY’s four university centers (Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook) in 2007-08. In the last 15 years, he said, enrollment at SUNY’s four-year schools has increased by 26,000 students, while the number of full-time faculty positions has been reduced by more than 1,300.
“The harm this has produced is alarming,” Smith said, citing as examples the deactivation of five humanities programs at UAlbany and three majors at Geneseo plus the virtual closing of Stony Brook’s Southampton campus.
Smith urged the lawmakers to protect SUNY from further budget slashes.
“If we are to stem the tide of reduced retention and graduation rates, we must find ways to protect the State University’s operating budget from any further reductions. Our campuses have been presented with operational challenges that they can not possibly meet,” he said.
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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