Protestors gathered on the Binghamton University Spine on Friday to call for SUNY funding.
Organized by United University Professions (UUP) — along with the Graduate Students Employee Union (GSEU) — faculty, students and state legislators rallied from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to demand more state funding for SUNY institutions, and to bring awareness to a proposal for a shift in funding.
Brendan McGovern, vice president for professionals of UUP and the lead organizer for the event, said the UUP is calling for the state to provide $110 million in direct support for SUNY campuses and $55 million for the hiring full-time faculty.
“We have 19 SUNY schools operating at a deficit, we have SUNY Teaching hospitals that are teetering on insolvency due to the lack of state support, and we need additional funding for programs like [Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)] that bring the benefits of higher education to all deserving New York state residents,” McGovern wrote in an email. “The state’s failure to fully fund SUNY threatens the future viability of New York’s public higher education system.
Speakers at the rally, which included NYS Senator Lea Webb, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and several BU students, were specifically protesting a recent proposal by Gov. Kathy Hochul that will increase tuition for SUNY and CUNY annually by 6 percent for the next five years — beginning next year. Attendees held signs reading “#FUNDSUNYNOW” and “OUR SUNY, OUR FUTURE,” and cheered on speakers as they presented.
Webb shared her support for more state funding, discussing the importance of affordable and accessible education, as a SUNY alum and member of UUP. Webb said SUNY has a “global impact,” and described why she feels challenging Hochul’s budget is important for the future of the SUNY system.
“And so, our respective one-house budget proposals from both the Assembly and the Senate really reflect that, not only are we talking the talk, but we are walking it because we understand that we are trying to rectify years of underinvestment,” Webb said. “But these steps are important to take in not just in a casual fashion, but a continuous and steady and equitable fashion. And now is the time to do that.”
Lupardo, who shared she is both a SUNY alum and professor of 10 years — also a member of UUP — assured the crowd of the support they have, stating that she and other advocates have rejected the tuition increase, are pushing for a raise in income eligibility for Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and have instituted four SUNY flagships, instead of one. She went on to state that an increase in funding would benefit all of New York state, not just the Southern Tier.
“So listen folks, you have dedicated, committed, experienced advocates,” Lupardo said. “I think we’re both serving on the Higher Education Committee and now the senior member on that committee. We’re there. We’re making sure this happens. We will do our best. We are committed to doing our best because we are not only personally invested, we understand how valuable not only to this community, but to communities across the state.”
Along with UUP representatives, BU students also made their voices heard.
Shawna Stevenson, a second-year graduate student pursuing a masters in geography at BU, spoke on affordable and accessible education during her speech, sharing her own experience of leaving her career to pursue higher education.
“Whether you just came out of high school or you’re deciding to change your career, you should have access,” Stevenson said. “So I’m in favor of this legislation because it makes college more affordable for my community, my classmates and myself. The cost of college is more expensive now than ever before, and this legislation is a timely response to another proposed increase in costs. I think a quality affordable, equitable and accessible education system is something that we can be proud of in New York state.”