December 9, 2010

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UAlbany students, faculty push back against program cuts


Chanting “no ifs, no buts, no department cuts,” about 60 UAlbany students and UUPers, including UAlbany associate professor of French Eloise Briere, left, took part in a Dec. 8 campus rally and march to demand the university reverse a decision to deactivate majors in French, Italian, Russian, the classics and theater.

A group of concerned students and faculty calling themselves S.O.S, The Coalition to Save Our SUNY, staged the rally in front of UAlbany’s Campus Center. Students and UUPers later marched to the office of President George Philip, where two doctoral students presented a five-page list of principles and demands—which included a call to administrators to take a leadership role in pressuring state legislators for full public funding of SUNY.

About a half-dozen UUPers were at the noontime rally to show support for students and their beleaguered colleagues, and to advocate for reinstatement of the humanities programs.

“Their careers are being ruined by this deactivation threat,” said Briere, who held a sign that said “Save SUNY Now” as she marched.

David Wills, a UAlbany English and French professor whose job teaching French is at risk if the cuts take place, said students and the university’s reputation will suffer if the programs are phased out.

“The (deactivations) cut a big hole in the core curriculum,” said Wills. “We will continue to pressure until (Philip) understands this is a disastrous academic decision.”

Blaming a $12 million state budget cut, Philip announced Oct. 1 that UAlbany will suspend admissions to the five programs. He said the campus would lose the equivalent of 160 positions by 2012.

S.O.S. members said they are giving Philip 50 days to respond before they escalate their demands.

“We’re saying `work with us,’” said Colin Donnaruma, a UAlbany philosophy doctoral student. “But if it doesn't happen, we’re not going to sit back and let this happen. We’re going to fight to defend our academic programs.”

James Searle, an English doctoral student, said a meeting with Philip earlier in the week was productive. He was hopeful the administration will work with students to push legislators to send more money to SUNY.

“We’re hoping to build a broad coalition and exercise some political will and turn things around,” he said.

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