Over 100 CUNY faculty gather outside and via Zoom to protest budget cuts

cuny07 (002)
People walk by a CUNY campus in the city. (Courtesy of CUNY)

Tuesday, more than 100 CUNY faculty members formed a socially distant human chain and took part in a caravan around CUNY headquarters and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office in midtown Manhattan to protest budget cuts and layoffs in public university system. 

Dozens of faculty members joined colleagues on the ground via a Zoom meeting in order to “amplify” the effect of the demonstration, said President of the Professional Staff Congress Barbara Bowen, a union representing over 30,000 CUNY faculty and Staff. 

“We are counting on you to amplify by tweeting, by emailing, by telling your friends, by insisting, because this is the week of hard struggle,” said a masked Bowen to her colleagues on Zoom. Bowen led the socially distanced on-the-ground protest while provided occasional updates to faculty listening in on the Zoom meeting. 

CUNY faculty have protested impending budget cuts due to the economic downturn caused by the novel coronavirus for weeks. The union even released two online and TV ads, one on March 25 and another on June 17, calling on the university system to “do better” by its part-time and adjunct faculty members, who will bear the brunt of potential budget cuts. 

CUNY was already struggling financially before the coronavirus hit New York City and given the coronavirus induced economic downturn, campuses are preparing for the worst. 

In May, John Jay College of Criminal Justice prepared to cut 430 adjunct professors, nearly 40% of its teaching staff. The College of Staten Island planned to cut 35% of adjunct staff, Brooklyn College considered cutting 25% of its course offerings, and Queens College braced themselves to let go of 10% of adjuncts and part-time staffers. 

During the early weeks of the pandemic, CUNY received $237 million in funding from the CARES Act, and the system was directed to split CARES funds equally for direct student aid and for institutional needs. But it is unclear what the funds designated for pandemic-related institutional needs are going towards, some faculty told amNY. 

What makes matters more complicated is that during this year’s state budget negotiations new powers were granted to Governor Andrew Cuomo to unilaterally impose rolling budget cuts. Faculty worry that given New York state’s current $13 billion deficit cuts to CUNY could be as high as $95.1 million.

The deadline for CUNY faculty reappointment letters is June 30. 

More from around NYC