Students protest recent tuition hike at USG hosted rally

Amanda Salazar, Editor-in-Chief

Baruch College’s Undergraduate Student Government organized a rally on Feb. 6 to protest the recent tuition hike, which was approved by the CUNY Board of Trustees on Dec. 16. 

University Student Senate members, students, faculty and staff members from all over CUNY, in addition to elected officials, came to support the cause. 

Over a dozen security guards were waiting around the Baruch Plaza. However, unlike the BoT meeting in December, there was not any contact between the protesters and the security guards.

USG President Dakshatha Daggala, Executive Vice President Joshua Castillo, VP of Legislative Affairs Kim Kazdal and Rep. Sen. Andres Aguirre led the protest.

“We had a great turnout for the rally in the beginning. I think we had around 100 to 150 people,” said Kazdal. “There was a good balance between students and faculty.”

Daggala also spoke at the rally.

“We all have to stand together to make sure that New York State listens to us,” Daggala said in her speech. “We all have issues at every single one of our schools and representatives need to know we go to school in conditions that are not acceptable.”

Several local New York politicians backed the rally and some even attended the protest, including Assembly Members Harvey Epstein, Carmen de la Rosa, Rebecca Seawright, Catalina Cruz, Deborah Glick, Linda Rosenthal, Yuhline Niou, Victor Pichardo and Dick Gottfried, and State Senator Brad Hoylman, Robert Jackson and Andrew Gounardes.

The President of the Professional Staff Congress, Barbara Bowen, also attended the rally to speak about the recent budget cuts affecting both students and faculty.

“They want us to be better, they want students to have less stress, more counselors — so, what do they do? Put more charges on students,” Bowen said at the rally. “That’s not fair. What we need is this rich state to prioritize your education and our work for your education.”

“Every year, the funding stays the same dollar amount, but the number of students goes up. So, you’re at Baruch, you’re brilliant at math, what does that mean? That means there’s less money for each student,” she said. “That is not an accident. And what does that lead to? That leads to increases of tuition, and things like this illogical and strange and unacceptable wellness fee.”

Some speeches highlighted the importance of voting for representatives who advocate for public education funding.

“We are expecting to represent the lack of funding, and share our stories in Albany,” said Kazdal about USG’s upcoming lobbying event in Albany. 

Additionally, USS Chairperson Timothy Hunter attended and spoke at the event.

“Some people may think, why are we talking about tuition hikes? I get TAP, I get Excelsior, I get Pell. I don’t have anything to do with those things. However, you are all wrong. Tuition hikes affect all of us,” Hunter said. 

Hunter explained that schools that have more students utilizing the Tuition Assistance Program get the short end of the stick when it comes to state funding. Since TAP doesn’t always cover the full tuition, it leaves it on the colleges to supplement and fill in that gap.

He also talked about how City Tech’s library now closes at 8 p.m. “I’m tired of cutting class to come to protest. I’m tired of cutting class to lobby electeds. I’m tired of cutting class to talk to my class president about library hours,” he said. 

Hunter, as the chairperson, is the only student on the Board of Trustees and spoke with The Ticker about the Dec. 16 meeting in which the board voted to approve the proposed tuition and fees hike.

He was the only Trustee to vote against the hikes and he proposed two alternatives to the hikes.

“It comes with the territory. We’re well aware of the fact that, you know, the students are always at a disadvantage when it comes to these things,” he said. “Being the only student on the Board of Trustees is a privilege, just to be able to serve the students in this opportunity and in this capacity, but at the same time, the students are constantly being disenfranchised because of our elected officials.”