June 5, 2024
UUP, NYSUT, legislators push SUNY chancellor for fair funding for SUNY campuses
uupdate 06-05-24

UUP President Fred Kowal, NYSUT President Melinda Person and state legislators called on SUNY Chancellor John King Jr. and the SUNY Board of Trustees to reallocate millions in state funding for SUNY to provide more financial support for 19 campuses facing massive deficits.

They joined together to deliver the strong message at a June 4 press conference at the state Capitol. Afterward, UUP members marched down State Street, where Kowal—joined by UUP statewide officers Carolyn Kube, Alissa Karl, and Jeri O'Bryan-Losee—personally delivered thousands of protest letters from members to the H. Carl McCall SUNY Building in downtown Albany.

"Since he arrived at SUNY, the chancellor has only been interested in tearing down the SUNY system," Kowal said. “This cannot and will not stand. No campus is ever to be left behind.”

For the second year in a row, the chancellor and SUNY’s Board of Trustees chose to underfund financially distressed campuses. Much of the nearly $300 million in direct state aid to SUNY in the enacted budget was allocated to the four university centers, leaving smaller, cash-strapped campuses with far too little to wipe out their deficits.

"SUNY needs to grow its way out of this crisis, not cut its way out," said UUP Buffalo State Chapter President Fred Floss. "We are willing to do anything to grow Buffalo State, but we need the help of SUNY. Let us use that funding to build a strong SUNY, not tear it down."

UUP was joined by 10 legislators as well as Person, a staunch supporter of fair funding for all SUNY schools. Person spoke about the combined $146 million deficit at the 19 campuses, which she and Kowal both noted could have easily been wiped out using the existing funding in the enacted budget.

"These are deficits that were created by decades of underfunding in a previous administration," said Person. "These students need more help, not less. We need intervention from the chancellor."

In what Kowal referred to as a "brazen display," Chancellor King touted the growth of the SUNY system in his 2024 State of the University Address late last month, claiming that SUNY was "strong and [could] only grow stronger." The next day, SUNY Buffalo State announced extensive cuts, axing 37 programs in an attempt to close a $16 million deficit.

“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to be here today,” Kowal said. “The SUNY chancellor would have done the right thing and advised the Board of Trustees to wipe out the deficits and provide fair funding to all campuses. But that has not been the case.”

Legislature to King: Do the right thing!

Several legislators expressed anger and disbelief at the chancellor's campus allocation recommendations to the Trustees. State Sen. John Liu, a Binghamton University alumnus, noted how hard the Legislature worked this session to reverse decades of disinvestment in both SUNY and CUNY.

"Too many parts of SUNY are in a downward spiral," Liu said. "Never in a million years did we expect SUNY to hasten that downward spiral."

Assemblymember Marianne Buttenschon, a SUNY graduate and former UUP member, spoke of the importance of SUNY as a bastion of public higher education in the United States. Fellow Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon called SUNY a "jewel."

"These campuses are a part of our society, of our community," said Simon. "It's bad financial planning for the state and New Yorkers will suffer for it."

"New Yorkers are not going to stand for skim milk," said Assemblymember Deborah Glick. "We're here for full support for all campuses."

Assemblymember Chris Eachus, a SUNY alumnus and proud member of NYSUT, addressed the Chancellor directly.

"Do the right thing," said Eachus. "Give the money to those in need. That's why we fought for it."

Fighting for fair funding for all campuses

Kowal led a contingent of UUPers to the SUNY Administrative Building following the press conference, hand-delivering three large boxes of postcards from members calling for the chancellor to reverse his decision and provide fair funding to all SUNY campuses.

Members expressed their displeasure at campuses like Buffalo State, SUNY Potsdam, and SUNY Fredonia getting shortchanged by SUNY.

"Once you start cutting, campuses shrink smaller and smaller. We've seen it elsewhere in the country," said Kowal. "We will not watch this chancellor decimate the SUNY system campus by campus. No campus will be left behind."

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