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CUNY leaders must fight harder against budget cuts

Metropolitan Transportation Auth
Marc A. Hermann | Flickr

Earlier in April, the Professional Staff Congress provided scripts for students to call for New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and other legislators to secure more education funding from this year’s late state budget. CUNY students, the majority of whom are working-class, juggle jobs or caretaking alongside their studies and who may face additional barriers to education due to this year’s FAFSA fiasco, should not shoulder the responsibility in fighting budget cuts.

The PSC has led an ongoing effort to organize CUNY faculty and students for their mutual benefit, including through a Feb. 28 trip to Albany to lobby representatives on Higher Education Action Day.

The PSC’s work is commendable amid a period of increasing austerity within CUNY. According to the nonprofit newsroom THE CITY, sudden layoffs and class cuts were made in January, just weeks before the spring semester began. Queens College laid off 26 full-time faculty members. At York College, layoffs of an estimated 75 part-time adjuncts and additional staffers led to 18% of classes being cut.

According to the New York Daily News, the cutbacks included a hiring freeze and were ordered by CUNY Operating Officer, Hector Batista in response to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’s $23 million in cuts to CUNY in his revised municipal budget.

CUNY’s teaching faculty, the majority of whom are poorly-paid adjuncts, whose access to healthcare depends on the fickleness of appointment negotiations and who have worked a year without a contract shouldn’t be responsible for budget cuts either.

If CUNY’s most senior—and highest-paid—leaders truly believe that CUNY is an engine of social mobility, then they should be its strongest defenders against budget cuts.

According to the New York Daily News, Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez spun the January cuts positively to state lawmakers at a hearing by saying that they had reduced budget deficits.

“While we have made great strides, there’s still more work to be done,” Rodríguez said.

Rodríguez should commit to calling the cuts what they are—a tragedy that should have him banging down legislator’s doors to get reversed.

Baruch College’s own leaders can demonstrate their commitment to students by publicly responding to multiple PSC demonstrations on campus where students and faculty have protested staffing shortages, budget cuts, rising tuitions and proposed increased class sizes, connecting these issues to the union’s lack of a contract.

Protestors have called on Baruch President S. David Wu and Provost Linda Essig to act. Neither have spoken out yet, and Essig walked silently by them.

Now is the time for officials who hold the most power within CUNY to live up to that responsibility—or, in the case of a strike, be forced to.

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