For the past three months, CUNY was in a state of crisis. Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed in his Executive Budget to cut $485 million and make the city pay for it instead. This is equal to nearly one-third of funding for all senior colleges.
Officials at CUNY scrambled to mobilize students and urge state lawmakers to reconsider this cut or, as the Cuomo administration prefers, shift. The Professional Staff Congress, which represents 25,000 professors and staff, organized rallies and even held a die-in in front of Cuomo’s New York City office. Forty-one people were arrested at this protest, but their message was understood—don’t let CUNY die.
Cuomo, under pressure, reversed his stance. The catch is a management efficiency expert will review administrative costs of CUNY and SUNY to save money.
“The governor is committed to fully funding CUNY's $1.6 billion budget while identifying ways to ensure the maximum amount of money goes to students and teachers instead of toward bloated administrative costs,” Dani Lever, a spokesperson for Cuomo, said to the Daily News.
This is good news for all CUNY colleges. For example, Queens College halted all decisions relating to the budget until April 1. Officials were unsure what might happen if the cut actually went through. For now, they are wiping the sweat off their forehead.
But this returns us to square one. CUNY still requires more funding to help students. QC is suffering from a $1 million shortfall, and there’s no doubt other colleges are suffering deficits.
Moreover, professors and staff are working with a contract. It’s been six years since the last one expired, and they need one now. The lack of a contract is contributing to an exodus of teachers and a decline in the education at CUNY.
Despite the success of those who fought this shift, there’s still more to do. State Senate officials, primarily Republicans, pressured CUNY to investigate anti-Semitism. If not, it would face a $485 million shortfall.
Jack Martins, a state Senator representing Nassau County, explained March 18 on Fox Business Show that CUNY should immediately ban Students for Justice in Palestine, the group targeted by lawmakers for anti-Semitism.
“They are part of the student organization at CUNY. All we’ve asked is, hey, suspend the group. We know that there have been incidents. Suspend the group,” Martins said.
CUNY administration officials quickly created a task force to investigate this. Chancellor James Milliken and board of trustees chairperson Benno Schmidt pledged to look into the matter.
It’s hard to understand why cutting funding for CUNY, which impacts Jewish students, would pressure CUNY to protect them. A better alternative is creating alliances on campus between faiths like the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding at QC.
Besides, it is obvious suspending SJP would violate their First Amendment rights. Lawmakers are playing politics and jeopardizing the education of thousands of students.
With Cuomo no longer favoring cuts to CUNY, it is hard to see the state Senate push for cuts. But the decision by lawmakers to cut funding for such a peculiar reason highlights the potential fights ahead for CUNY.
CUNY can celebrate for now, but the battle is not over.