March 12, 2012

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UUPers, NYSUT team up to support SUNY


Stony Brook Chapter Vice President for Professionals Charlie McAteer, left, talks to Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) in his Albany office as Old Westbury Chapter President Candelario “Kiko” Franco and UAlbany Chapter President Candace Merbler listen.

UUPers from across the state asked lawmakers to make SUNY a priority in the state’s 2012-13 budget during face-to-face talks March 6 as part of NYSUT’s annual Higher Ed Lobby Day.

More than 20 UUPers joined nearly 100 NYSUT members, who spent the day visiting dozens of legislators in their offices at the Legislative Office Building and state Capitol. UUPers traveled from Potsdam, Geneseo, Albany, Oneonta, New Paltz, Cobleskill, Cortland, Empire State College and Upstate Medical University chapters for the advocacy event.

UUPers called for an additional $25 million in SUNY’s operating budget to hire more full-time professors, and $68 million in subsidies for the state’s three public hospitals. They urged lawmakers to reject a state-appointed committee’s plan to close Downstate Medical Center’s University Hospital and the proposed Tier VI pension plan.

Members also told legislators that tuition dollars should not be used to pay for buildings and other campus infrastructure improvements. And Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funding must be increased to aid low-income students who depend on it to pay for their education.

“There’s a $300 (TAP) gap per student and campuses are covering that amount to the tune of $11 million,” Upstate Medical University Chapter member Brian Tappan told Sen. Betty Little (R, C, I-Queensbury). “That’s money that could be used to hire (full-time) faculty and a lot of other things.”

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) said he depended on TAP and other financial assistance to earn his degree from New Paltz. Cahill, a SUNY New Paltz alumnus who spoke glowingly about his University education, was receptive to sending more state funding to SUNY in the 2012-13 state budget.

“State aid to SUNY is $85 million less than it was in 1990,” Fredonia Chapter member Thomas Morrissey said to an aide for Sen. Cathy Young (R, C, I-Olean). “Then add inflation to that to tell the whole story.”

Most legislators expressed a willingness to keep University Hospital open and rebuff the state-appointed panel led by Wall Street millionaire financier Stephen Berger; the committee wants to close the hospital and move inpatient services to Downstate’s Long Island College Hospital (LICH).

UUPers also found an ally against the Tier VI pension plan in Assemblyman Sam Roberts (D, WF-Syracuse). He agreed with UUPers, who said Tier VI would make it difficult for SUNY to attract the best and brightest professors and faculty to the University.

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