Feb. 28, 2018

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UUPers, students push for public higher ed

uupdate 2-28-18

Interrupting his own speech, UUP President Fred Kowal asked the more than 500 CUNY and SUNY students at the Higher Education Advocacy Day rally in Albany Feb. 28 stand up and look around the room.

“This right here is what hope looks like,” Kowal said, as students began to clap and cheer. “You are the foot soldiers of hope. Hate to put it on you, but it’s on you. And no one is better suited for the job than you are.”

Higher Education Advocacy Day is an annual event planned in coalition with NYSUT, PSC/CUNY, the SUNY Student Assembly, the CUNY University Student Senate, and NYPIRG. NYSUT President Andy Pallotta, PSC/CUNY President Barbara Bowen, and NYPIRG Executive Director Blair Horner also spoke to students at the event, held in The Egg performing arts space in Albany.

Above, UUP MDO Tom Hoey, center, and a group of students visit a legislator's office to advocate for SUNY.

After the rally, students and faculty visited legislators’ offices and advocated for more state investment in SUNY and CUNY. Those issues included closing the “TAP gap,” reducing SUNY’s reliance on tuition increases, restoring the state subsidy for the SUNY academic medical centers, and funding opportunity programs.

Manik Elahi, a SUNY Student Assembly representative and UAlbany student, spoke on the importance of students attending advocacy days and speaking out for causes important to them.

“Civic action is extremely important,” Elahi said. “Anytime we want to see changes in legislation, it is important for citizens to visit their legislators and let their voice be heard.”

Hoey agreed of the importance of UUP members and students speaking with legislators.

“We must keep reminding legislators of the importance of higher education and the importance of including adequate funding in the budget,” said Hoey.

Students and UUP members spoke about the impact of SUNY’s opportunity programs and the importance of protecting these programs for future generations.

“I was able to go to college because of these programs,” said Nikolas Vasquez, a first-semester UAlbany EOP student. “As the oldest sibling and first in my family to go to college, I want my younger siblings to have the same hope and opportunities that I’ve had.”

They also urged legislators to pass the NY DREAM Act, stabilize and increase community college base aid, and invest in SUNY and CUNY infrastructure.

UUP’s advocacy work will continue through the budget season. UUP members will be in Albany for NYSUT's Committee of 100 on March 5 and 6, and UUP’s Health Science Centers Advocacy Day March 7.

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