More than a 1,000 people looped down New York City streets, keeping cadence with a marching band: "Students, Faculty and Staff Unite. Same Struggle. Same Fight."
They were marching in support of an endangered City University of New York system that has been underfunded for far too long. This year's executive budget proposal threatens CUNY even further by proposing to shift $485 million in state-funded costs for CUNY's senior colleges to the city's budget. More tuition increases are proposed.
"CUNY belongs to the people! ... Education is a right. It's a need as basic as eating and sleeping," said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, representing CUNY academic and professional staff.
Deeply concerned over the state of CUNY, dozens of unions, community groups and alliances joined the PSC in the march. PSC members and students work in labs and classrooms with broken heating systems, leaking ceilings, exposed wiring. Bathrooms are frequently out of order.
Wages and salaries for PSC members have stayed stagnant during a six-year drought without a contract. Members of DC 37, who also work at CUNY, have toiled seven years without a contract. Nearly 7,000 of their members don't make $15 an hour. "Basic living essentials don't hold still," said Pat Rudden, a PSC member at City Tech.
Iris DeLutro, a PSC member, activist and NYSUT Board member, said prolonged underfunding has cut services for students and extended college to five years for many students because they can't enroll in the classes they need.
CUNY and the State University of New York have suffered losses of more than $1.5 billion since 2008. It has led to the self-funding of mandatory costs (energy, technology, administration, collective bargaining); the reduction in state support also drives up tuition.
"Students' tuition increases should be invested in student academic programs, services and faculty," said NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale, who attended the march alongside NYSUT Secretary- Treasurer Martin Messner. "But much of that funding is paying for mandatory costs not covered by the state's inadequate funding for SUNY and CUNY. That's plain wrong."