Jan. 29, 2017

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DiNapoli, Wallace pledge support, urge UUPers to advocate

uupdate 1-29-17

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli pledged his advocacy and the fiscal oversight of his office to UUP in a strongly worded message of support at the union’s 2017 Winter Delegate Assembly.

“UUP members are very much the front-line leaders on our campuses,” DiNapoli, a longtime ally of public employee unions, told more than 300 delegates as the DA’s keynote speaker Jan. 29. “You deserve respect as professionals, and you know I feel you deserve a retirement pension that is safe.”

In the afternoon, freshman Assemblymember—and UUP member—Monica Wallace (D-Lancaster) addressed delegates and promised to promote UUP's legislative agenda in Albany.

Call for action

In a weekend dominated by news of Donald Trump’s chaotic and hastily imposed immigration restriction plan – which may have as-yet-unknown consequences for foreign-born SUNY students, faculty and staff – DiNapoli opened his talk by picking up where UUP President Fred Kowal’s strongly worded plenary address ended.

“It’s just unbelievable,” DiNapoli said of the Trump presidency. “We need to have a continued discussion about why many of the men and women who will be hurt the most by what’s happening voted the wrong way – and many of them were union members.”

DiNapoli, the sole trustee of the state’s pension system, backed a number of positions that closely match UUP’s legislative agenda. He said he supports including more full-time faculty in the SUNY system, and help for “Dreamer” college students, who are ineligible for state or federal student financial aid.

He encouraged the restoration of oversight of the state’s procurement process, which seems especially urgent now in the face of a multi-billion-dollar SUNY bid-rigging scandal.

Promising signs

DiNapoli also called for a realistic approach to the student debt crisis. He said the governor’s recent proposal for free tuition for SUNY students meeting certain academic and income criteria is a welcome addition to a much-debated national topic—and one to which UUP has given qualified support.

But additional funding and faculty for SUNY is necessary; without it, SUNY’s increased enrollment would add additional burdens to a system that already has a very high student-to-faculty ratio.

There is hope that change may come this year, however. DiNapoli predicted that the Legislature “will be very open” to UUP’s advocacy this year, and encouraged members to approach their advocacy with optimism and the certainty that right is on their side.

Said DiNapoli, “When you build up SUNY, you build up New York state.”

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Wallace says thanks

Wallace, a faculty member at the University at Buffalo Law School, was greeted with a standing ovation by delegates. She thanked them--and singled out Kowal, Buffalo Center Chapter President Tom Tucker and Buffalo State Chapter President Rich Stempniak--for helping her win her first two-year Assembly term.

She said she looked forward to working with UUPers and welcomed them to visit her in Albany and her district office in Cheektowaga.

“I’m proud to call myself a UUP member,” Wallace said.

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