Days after the state legislature proposed hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments for City University of New York, close to 100 students and faculty members rallied for additional funding as they seek a tuition-free CUNY and a better quality of education.
Marchers, joined Sunday by a bevy of local elected officials, called on the State Senate, Assembly and Governor Kathy Hochul to enact the New Deal for CUNY — legislation that would fully fund CUNY, improve faculty-to-student and advisor-to-student ratios and make undergraduate education tuition-free again.
The protest came after both the Senate and Assembly passed one-house budget resolutions last week that rejected tuition hikes proposed by the governor in her most recent budget plan. The resolutions, while lauded by some student advocates, didn’t include much of what’s being sought in the New Deal.
In a statement released on March 14, James Davis, president of the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY, commended the Senate and Assembly “for endorsing substantial increases in operational funding and capital investment for CUNY in their one-house budgets.”
“The Legislature’s commitment to revitalizing public higher education is crucial right now. Facing an increasingly uncertain economic future, low-income and working New Yorkers, immigrant communities, and communities of color are counting on CUNY – and on Albany – to ensure continued economic mobility and opportunity,” the statement read. “The Legislature’s opposition to tuition hikes and the investments they have prioritized can bring us closer to realizing a New Deal for CUNY while protecting students and staff from painful cuts to academic programs and student services threatened by pandemic enrollment declines and the expiration of federal stimulus.”
At Sunday’s rally, Davis slammed those who refer to the CUNY New Deal as “some radical idea.”
“There is nothing radical about the New Deal for CUNY. Is it radical to say that our students at CUNY deserve the same ratio of full-time faculty to students as the national average?” he asked. “Is it a radical idea to say that CUNY students deserve academic advisors at the same ratio of every other student in this country? That is not a radical idea.”
Salimatou Doumbouya, chairperson of the University Student Senate, stressed Sunday that CUNY students are prepared to fight for fair funding.
“There is one message that I want all the leaders to hear, all the elected officials, everyone at CUNY central to hear: The students are here, they know what they deserve and they will keep fighting for what they deserve, on their local campuses, with their faculty, with the staff and every single person to make sure that CUNY remains the greatest urban university in the world,” Doumbouya said. “Where you can learn, where you can test, where you can experiment and where you can grow over and over again, where you can stay 20 years and become the best version of yourself. That’s the CUNY we want and that’s the CUNY we are fighting for.”
“We need to win this,” Davis added. “This is a very wealthy state, this is a very wealthy city and there’s no reason why the governor has to go out and raise tuition at this moment on our students.”