Unionized CUNY professors demanded that the state stop “divesting” from the public university system during a rally outside of Hunter College on Thursday afternoon to prevent more staffing and budget cuts.
The rally at Hunter is the most recent in months-long calls from faculty and teaching staff represented by the union, the Professional Staff Congress, to stop or reverse budget cuts to CUNY.
Teachers and union leadership say that the university system was already “resource starved” before the pandemic. Now, the city’s public two-year and four-year colleges are in even worse financial strains since 3,000 adjunct professors have been let go this year resulting in hundreds of classes being removed from course catalogs in order to cut costs.
The CUNY administration’s decision to lay off thousands of staffers, in some cases even before budget cuts took place this year, has been called cruel and callous by colleagues as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on.
“To lose work, income, and health insurance during a global pandemic creates a personal crisis for the people who make CUNY what it is,” said Rose Squillacote, the Professional Staff Congress’s vice president for part-time personnel.
On Thursday, PSC members decried Governor Andrew Cuomo decision to withhold 20% of state aid to municipalities, school districts and social service, amounting to $2 billion, to 12 cities in order to offset a $14.5 billion revenue shortfall caused by the pandemic. The state recently announced that it would begin to make school-aid payments to municipalities.
“The threat of economic precarity is always close with adjuncts, but CUNY’s decision to not use the CARES Act money to retain jobs has made that precarity all the worse,” Squillacote added.
In the spring, CUNY received $237 million dollars from the CARES Act half of which was meant to go towards student aid and institutional needs as a result of the pandemic. Multiple members of CUNY faculty told amNewYork Metro that half of those funds were used to help students financially but the use of the remaining funds remains a mystery.
PSC members are calling for CUNY to be transparent in what has happened to those funds, something that union leadership claims CUNY promised to them in writing in May.
“CUNY signed an agreement to provide to the union a ‘detailed college budget information, information on proposed cuts, information about State and City fiscal situations and enrollment projections,” a statement from PSC says. “Hunter College, like many other CUNY colleges, has failed to meet its legal obligation to provide this budget information.
A CUNY spokesperson recommended that the union direct their efforts towards the federal government which failed to provide the state with increased financial help during its hour of need.
“The federal government’s ongoing failure to provide the resources necessary for states, local governments, and public universities to weather the pandemic has left CUNY with few options,” said spokesperson Frank Sobrino. “The PSC should stop the infighting and join us in calling on the federal government to act immediately and deliver the funding we need.”