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CONTACT: Mike Lisi (518) 640-6600
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February 1, 2012

UUP to lawmakers: SUNY needs more full-time faculty, additional funds for teaching hospitals

Phillip H. Smith, the head of the union representing academic and professional faculty at the State University of New York (SUNY), testified today at a public hearing conducted by the Legislature’s joint fiscal committees. The president of United University Professions (UUP) commended the governor for breaking the cycle of deep annual cuts to SUNY in his 2012-2013 Executive Budget. At the same time, Smith urged lawmakers to add $25 million to the proposed budget to hire more full-time faculty.

Smith said state support for SUNY’s four-year colleges and universities had been slashed seven times in the last four years. That has led to dramatic increases in class sizes and thousands of students unable to get the courses they need to graduate on time—problems Smith said are directly linked to the dwindling ranks of full-time faculty.

“Higher education is a labor intensive service. It requires faculty/student ratios that permit personal interaction between student and instructor,” Smith said. “If we are to do our jobs properly, there must be more full-time faculty throughout the University system, and that faculty is needed now.”

Smith asked lawmakers to add $25 million to the budget to, as he put it, “rebuild the academic departments of every SUNY campus.”

Smith noted that UUP represents thousands of faculty and health care professionals at SUNY’s three teaching hospitals at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, Stony Brook University Medical Center on Long Island, and Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. He thanked lawmakers for restoring $60 million for the hospitals in the current state budget, but also asked them to add another $68 million, which would restore the total hospital subsidy to the 2010 level. He said no Executive Budget in the last 20 years has recognized the reasons the hospitals need to operate as public institutions.

“If they were not public institutions, many tens of thousands of uninsured or underinsured New Yorkers would have no access to health care in the counties served by Upstate Medical University Hospital, within the Flatbush community in Brooklyn, or on Eastern Long Island,” Smith said. “When it comes to our teaching hospitals, no one in need of health care gets turned away. That is why these are public institutions. That is why the state needs to properly support them.”

Smith also expressed the union’s opposition to the recommendation by the state-appointed Medicaid Redesign Team’s Brooklyn Work Group to close the hospital at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.

“The severe impact this would have on the availability and quality of health care for those who live in Flatbush is totally unjustified,” Smith testified. “In our opinion, this is simply just another attempt to begin the ill-advised and thoughtless privatization of our public teaching hospitals.”

Smith also questioned the proposed budget’s expansion of NYSUNY 2020 to three additional campuses and its use of operating funds to construct new buildings.

“Under NYSUNY 2020, the University campuses will need to rely on operating funds to finance, in either hard dollars or debt service, 90 percent of the more than $800 million construction cost of new buildings to house various centers—or to accommodate the relocation of existing SUNY operations,” Smith said. “We do not believe that buildings alone produce economic development. The SUNY funds that will be used to finance building construction belong to the students. Putting those resources into teaching is the soundest infrastructure investment that SUNY could make.”

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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