October 21, 2009

Midyear cuts: Situation critical at SUNY, CUNY

Author: Darryl McGrath
Source: NYSUT News Wire
Caption: Phillip Smith (left), president of United University Professions, and Steve London, first vice president of the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY, spoke before the Assembly Ways and Means Committee at a hearing on Gov. Paterson's proposal to cut the state budget by $3 billion. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

NYSUT's higher education leaders painted a disturbing picture of life at the state's public colleges and universities in testimony Wednesday before state Assembly members - a picture that included classes so crowded they are unsafe and students packed into ramshackle, makeshift buildings.

Phillip Smith, president of United University Professions, and Steve London, first vice president of the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY, spoke before the Assembly Ways and Means Committee at a hearing on Gov. Paterson's proposal to cut the state budget by $3 billion. The cuts would be for the remaining half of the current fiscal year, which runs to March 31.

"Throughout the university, the consequences of these cuts are becoming very clear and very disturbing," Smith told Assembly members about conditions at the State University of New York. "Class sizes are being increased dangerously."

London described similar conditions at the City University of New York.

"What will the Deficit Reduction Plan mean to our members?" he asked during his testimony. "In buildings that currently have bathrooms without hot water, it will mean no facilities for basic hygiene at a time when there is great concern over the spread of swine flu."

UUP represents more than 35,000 academic and professional faculty at SUNY. The PSC represents 20,000 faculty and staff at CUNY.

The governor has already taken $90 million from the budget of the SUNY senior colleges as part of the $3 billion. The cuts to the SUNY and CUNY community colleges would total $33 million, but would have to be approved by the Legislature, as would the proposed $53 million cut to CUNY. Legislative approval is needed because funding to the CUNY and community college systems falls under the Aid to Localities portion of the state budget, which the governor cannot unilaterally cut.