Baruch students protest proposed CUNY and SUNY tuition hike

Alexandra Adelina Nita, Graphics Editor

Members of Baruch College’s Undergraduate Student Government organized a protest against Governor Hochul’s proposed 3% tuition increase for CUNY and SUNY schools on Feb. 21.

Protestors also called for the passage of the New Deal For CUNY, a bill that would return CUNY’s tuition-free status — which lasted from its 1847 founding to 1976 — and increase the number of faculty and mental health counselors.

Students and faculty held signs and chanted, “What do we want? Free CUNY! When do we want it? Now!” at Clivner=Field Plaza between speeches.

Speakers included representatives from Baruch’s USG, the CUNY Student Senate, the Professional Staff Congress and CUNY Rising as well as three elected officials: Senator Kristen Gonzalez, Assemblymember Steven Raga and State Senator Andrew Gounardes.

Multiple student speakers drew from their lived experiences to focus on the impact the proposed tuition hikes would have on students and their families.

USG Executive Vice President Osvaldo Garcia spoke about the challenges faced by his mother, “A first-generation American who used every penny to make sure her child was fed and had a roof over his head.”

“I stand here today to remind you of the critical role that institutions like CUNY play in providing a pathway for students from all backgrounds,” he said.

USG President Laiba Hussain described the financial burdens CUNY students face.

“The cost of living in New York has gone up dramatically during the pandemic, with items such as rent, food and education becoming impossible to afford,” she said.

“This increase in tuition will put a strain on our fellow students and their efforts of surviving in the city, with many facing a difficult decision to choose between either work or school.”

Union members were critical of the idea that a tuition increase alone would improve the quality of CUNY’s education, citing other underlying issues.

“We don’t need part-time faculty members racing from place to place despite their commitment, and talents and skills, not having enough time to give you the attention you deserve and the attention they want to give you,” PSC First Vice President Andrea Vásquez said.

“They need full time jobs and our full-time faculty need classes with 15 and 20 students in them.”

In a street interview after the protest, USG Vice President Ashley Chen, a double major in political science and sociology, discussed how she organized the protest. Chen had returned from USG’s visit to the Albany Caucus over the prior weekend, where they advocated for tuition hikes to be blocked.

She framed lowering tuition as an issue of racial justice.

“Proposed tuition in general, was raised after Black and brown individuals came to CUNY.”

Chen and other interviewed students expressed a desire to continue organizing in favor of the New Deal for CUNY.

“I would say to join PSC CUNY rallies as well as CUNY Rising events,” Chen said.

Chen served as the main point of contact for the speakers using organizing skills she developed in her role at the Chinese-American Planning Council. She was also involved in acquiring the stage and podium they stood on from the Office of Student Life.

USG Chair of Philanthropy Joseph Angel Hernandez, a junior studying operations management, said he plans to attend SOMOS El Futuro Caucus, calling it an opportunity to not only “celebrate Latin excellence” but also “continue to lobby support from our state legislators.”

Alumni Daniel Flores, a 22-year-old who studied public affairs, listed actions any student could take.

“Look up who’s your assembly member, State Senator and city council member,” he said. “Write a letter or call them, email. Remember, cc their leg[islative] director, and their chief of staff and let them know, hey, this is going on and this has to change.”