The CUNY Rising Alliance held a meeting on March 20 at Baruch College, led by Yael Shafritz, a paid organizer, as well as Yana Kalmyka and Afsana Akhter, who are both organizing fellows with
About 15 students attended the meeting. The goal of the meeting was to spread the message that students are fighting for a free and equal CUNY system.
The alliance was formed in recent years when Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried to cut most state funding from CUNY schools, instead having New York City pay more toward the university system. Over 30 groups in multiple CUNY schools banded together and created the alliance to stop this cut
“In 2015, Governor Cuomo tried to defund most of CUNY’s money … saying actually the city could pay for CUNY, but it really would have left huge cuts in the CUNY system. These groups formed a coalition to try and fight back against these cuts and actually won,” Shafritz said.
A major topic of discussion was the student activity fee.
The organizers explained that the funds collected from student activity fees may undergo proposed changes that students fear will potentially impact the strength of their voices once these funds are allocated.
The alliance members stressed that the CUNY budget is threatened, students could get fewer scholarships and professors could teach fewer classes at one time.
They also talked about the unfair salary adjunct professors receive. Most adjuncts have either a full-time job or multiple jobs on top of teaching courses at CUNY. This is because adjuncts only receive about $3,000 each semester for every course they teach. If an adjunct attempted to teach a full course load, that person would make about $21,000 a year, which is not a livable wage in New York City, as argued by alliance members.
Another major issue was tuition. The alliance is working to bring back free tuition. The members admitted this might seem like a far-fetched idea, but education at all CUNY schools was free until the late 1970s.
“Tuition was only introduced when the students became mostly brown. It’s not just an issue of money, it’s an issue of white supremacy,” Shafritz said.
Kalmyka concluded the meeting by stating why she joined the alliance. She said she is tired of saying, “Please don’t take this away from me,” as a student at a CUNY school.
Kalmyka said the alliance’s ultimate goal is to have a giant coalition coming together and working for the same thing.
The CUNY Rising Alliance’s next meeting will be held on April 3 and the group plans to meet every two weeks.