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February 10, 2011

UUP: SUNY can’t take further cuts; reject flexibility proposals

Saying the State University of New York has already lost a higher percentage of state funding than any other state agency, the head of the union representing SUNY’s academic and professional faculty today urged lawmakers to reject Gov. Cuomo’s proposed $100 million SUNY budget cut.

“The cuts to SUNY account for over 26 percent of the total spending reductions imposed on state agencies during the past two fiscal years,” UUP President Phillip H. Smith testified during a legislative hearing on the 2011-2012 Executive Budget.

Smith also told lawmakers that SUNY’s state-operated campuses have already lost more than 30 percent of their annual operating budgets, and the loss of an additional $100 million under terms of the proposed budget would raise the total cut to SUNY to $685 million.

“It is unlikely that any other major university in this nation has lost such a high percentage of its operating resources particularly in such a short period of time,” Smith testified. “If the governor’s proposal is not rejected, SUNY’s level of state support will be back to the level provided in the mid-1980s, despite the fact that enrollment has grown by more than 40,000 students in that time frame.”

Smith told legislators that SUNY has lost 1,300 faculty and would need 2,700 more full-time faculty merely to achieve the same faculty/student ratios that existed in the ‘80s. Smith said SUNY cannot endure another reduction in state support.

“From campus to campus, courses are being cancelled, class sizes are growing to levels never before experienced and students are compelled to compete for required courses,” he said. “The longer students are compelled to remain in school, the greater the expense to the state and, importantly, to the students and the families. It makes make no sense to force delayed graduation.”

Smith strongly urged lawmakers to reject any additional reduction in SUNY’s state support. Smith also appealed to lawmakers to turn back the proposed budget’s elimination of the $154 million subsidy to SUNY’s three teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse and to reject proposed reductions
to their Medicaid funding.

“The governor’s budget fails to recognize that these are publicly operated hospitals simply because they are required to serve, not only large populations of underinsured and uninsured patients, but also patients referred by other hospitals with medical conditions that require very costly treatment,” he testified. “The governor’s proposals jeopardize the welfare of citizens whose health care depends on the viability of our hospitals.”

Smith also said UUP is concerned about the governor’s proposal to allow SUNY to lease campus property and participate in public/private partnerships with limited public oversight.

“SUNY views itself as one of the state’s leading economic engines, but neglects to point out that educating the state’s workforce has greater economic value than pie in the sky notions of public/private partnerships and joint ventures,” Smith told lawmakers. He urged the panel to turn back the idea, saying there is no evidence that SUNY has lost a single revenue enhancement opportunity as a result of legislative oversight.

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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