Oct. 19, 2014

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Kowal to delegates: "Rise up, take action!"

uupdate 10-19-14

UUP President Fred Kowal implores delegates to get active and work for NYSUT-endorsed candidates in the November elections.

“It’s time for us to rise up, to seize the opportunity,” Kowal told more than 300 delegates Oct. 16, the first day of UUP’s two-day 2014 Fall Delegate Assembly in Albany. “We have this election to make a real difference.”

In an impassioned 45-minute speech, Kowal was critical of SUNY and its unfunded programs such as Open SUNY, the University’s overly ambitious, poorly planned push to become the nation’s largest online, distance and open learning initiative. Open SUNY’s goals include: graduation in three years for 25 percent of SUNY students by 2015; a systemwide electronic database to facilitate degree and transfer options within SUNY; and 100 percent transferable General Education courses through SUNY’s seamless transfer plan.

“Any kind of education that develops the whole person demands personal interaction and social interchange. There are no shortcuts to a better university,” he said.

Delegates applauded as Kowal explained his vision for the union, which included plans to generate ideas to counter SUNY initiatives and fight any move by SUNY to cut staff or vital health care services at state-run hospitals and health science centers.

“We will not accept any attempt to further downsize or privatize our hospitals,” he said. “We will develop our model for the future of our hospitals that will draw on the best ideas for public teaching hospitals, making this model the standard for others to follow.”

Innovative workshops

For the first time, the DA offered workshops on social justice issues, augmenting Kowal’s desire for UUP to become a national voice for positive change.

Wendy Murphy, left, an expert on Title IX and preventing sexual violence, spoke for more than 90 minute on “Title IX and Sexual Assault on Campus.” Murphy discussed the history of Title IX and other laws designed to deal with and reduce sexual crimes on campus—such as the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act and the Campus Accountability Safety Act. Afterward, she answered members’ questions about ways to deal with and halt sexual assaults on campus.

Delegates also tackled the pressing issue of soaring student debt during a workshop featuring Maggie Thompson, campaign manager of Higher Ed, Not Debt, and Maxwell Love, president of the United States Student Association. The pair outlined the economic crisis of student debt and discussed strategies that would allow students to get a public education without going into debt.

The threat against unions and democracy posed by corporate-backed interest groups was the subject of a workshop led by UUP associate member Tia Lessin, co-director and co-producer of “Citizen Koch,” a documentary film named after the wealthy conservative Koch brothers. She worked on the film with fellow UUPer Carl Deal.

Stony Brook Chapter delegate Mike Zweig led a workshop on the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget. The spending plan, called the “Better Off Budget,” includes a series of initiatives that, if enacted, would create 8.8 million jobs and produce a $4 trillion federal deficit reduction by 2017.

Bond set to leave

Delegates were surprised and saddened by news from Membership Development Officer Edison Bond, Jr. that he would not seek re-election. Bond, the Downstate Chapter’s vice president for professionals, said he will leave his job at SUNY Downstate Medical Center at year's end for a position outside of SUNY.

They also donated $15,000 to VOTE-COPE. The flood of contributions came in response to a dramatic appeal by NYSUT VOTE-COPE consultant Jeff Zuckerman, above, for UUP members to give more to NYSUT’s political action fund.

Delegates honored their own at the DA. Jeanne Galbraith and Ed Drummond of Stony Brook HSC, and Candy Merbler of Albany were presented with the 2014 Nina Mitchell Award for Distinguished Service. Doug Cody of Farmingdale and J McDermott of Oneonta won the Fayez Samuel Award for Courageous Service by Part-time Academic and Professional Faculty. Two retirees, Ivan Steen of Albany and Loraine Tyler of Oneonta, received the Pearl H. Brod Outstanding Active Retiree Award.

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