CUNY faculty and staff union releases ad campaign urging state legislators to invest in a ‘New Deal for CUNY’

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Screenshot via YouTube/CUNY

A union representing over 30,000 CUNY faculty and staff launched a TV and web campaign Thursday calling on state legislators to increase funding for the city public university system by passing a new bundle of bills named a “New Deal for CUNY.”

The bills, sponsored by Brooklyn state Senator Andrew Goundardes and Assemblymember Karines Reyes, propose making CUNY tuition-free for all New Yorkers by increasing funding from the federal, state and city level over the next five years.  The CUNY New Deal also outlines a goal to increase the student-to-faculty ratio to 65 full-time faculty members per 100,000 students and to bump up the number system’s mental health care counselors from 1-to-2,700 to 1-to-1,000. 

The union, called the Professional Staff Congress, argues the CUNY system needs an increase of $273.6 million in this year’s state budget in order to fund the first year of the New Deal possible. 

“The way out of the current economic crisis is to increase investment in working people and their institutions, not to double-down on failed austerity policies,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress. Last year was particularly devastating for CUNY after Governor Cuomo withheld 20% of the system’s $2 billion budget in response to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic forcing colleges to cut courses, shrink class sizes and lay off 3,000 adjunct faculty in order to keep financially afloat. So far, the legislation has 17 co-sponsors in the Senate and 33 in the Assembly. 

The ad–which will run until the end of the month across the five boroughs, Long Island, Westchester and Albany–shows former and current CUNY students bundled up in heavy winter coats during a rally in Brooklyn calling for an end to tax breaks for rich so that “billionaires pay their fare share” to allow “the dreams of a COVID generation to come true.”

The rallying cry is nothing new. In the summer of 2020, PSC leadership pushed for the passage of a tax on the city’s uber-wealthy, appropriately dubbed the Billionaire’s Tax, to help pay for new instructors, help with student aid and fund the repair of crumbling infrastructure. The bill called for a new capital gains tax on those with at least $1 billion worth of assets which state lawmakers calculated could raise up to $5.5 billion a year in revenue. 

It was not initially clear how much the PSC paid for the ad campaign with a spokesperson only able to verify the price was in the six figures.