Brooklyn officials march with students for New Deal for CUNY schools

December 15, 2021 Jaime DeJesus
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More than 1,000 City University of New York (CUNY) students marched to launch a campaign for 2022 urging for a “New Deal for CUNY schools,” joined by several Brooklyn elected officials.

CUNY’s website states that the system is the nation’s leading urban public university. The university comprises 25 institutions, three of which are in Brooklyn — Brooklyn College, NYC College of Technology and Kingsborough Community College. 

According to State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Queens), chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, since 1990, CUNY has produced a million graduates, more than 80 percent of whom have stayed in New York. 

Among the many famous alumni from Brooklyn College alone are Bernie Sanders, James Franco, Mel Brooks, Jimmy Smits, Alan Dershowitz, Don Lemon and Shirley Chisholm.

The march on Saturday started at LaGuardia Community College and ended at Court Square Park, both in Queens. Brooklyn’s State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-22nd State Senate District), the main Senate sponsor for the New Deal program, took part in the event.  

Also marching were NYS Attorney General Letitia James, Comptroller-Elect Brad Lander and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams — all of them former City Councilmembers from Brooklyn districts —as well as other elected officials and CUNY leaders.

The New Deal for CUNY would make CUNY tuition-free, set minimum faculty- and staff-to-student ratios, raise pay for adjuncts, and expand and modernize CUNY’s infrastructure. 

Currently, CUNY’s state budget request asks for an operating budget increase of $313 million to hire 1,075 additional full-time faculty, adding new mental health counselors and advisors; freezing tuition for CUNY students; and an increased capital investment of $5.8 billion over the next five years. 

Gounardes’ district includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Homecrest, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach, as well as portions of Sheepshead Bay, Borough Park and Midwood. He talked about the importance of investing more money into CUNY.

 “As we look for ways to recover from the COVID-19 economic crisis, what better way than to invest in a sure thing: our amazing public universities,” he said. “Our students deserve full-time teachers, mental health support, academic advisors and buildings that aren’t falling apart. The New Deal for CUNY is common sense smart fiscal policy, and I’m ready to fight for it in 2022.”

Photos courtesy of State Senator Andrew Gounardes.

Lifelong Bay Ridge resident and Baruch College student Edward Sanchez, marched and talked about what the potential deal would mean for him and his peers.

“My family works hard to make ends meet, and tuition-free college would be life changing,” he said. “Higher education is necessary to live a decent life and that’s why education is a human right.”

Attorney General James, a CUNY graduate, said that the schools offer many opportunities to New Yorkers who might otherwise not have access to higher education.

“There would be no CUNY without the dedicated professors and faculty behind it, and we must give them and our students the support they need to keep this system running,he said. “That means ensuring fair staffing ratios, providing adequate mental health support, and keeping tuition low so that all our students can have access to the quality education they deserve. These investments into CUNY are key to the continued success of New York City and the entire state.”

Professional Staff Congress CUNY President James Davis said that underfunding has been the norm for far too long.

“The faculty and staff we represent at the PSC have been asked for too long to do more with less,” he said. “Now the opportunity exists to support CUNY students – the majority of whom are people of color, immigrants, and the first generation in their families to attend college – in the way that they deserve. We call on legislators, the governor and the mayor to fulfill CUNY’s budget request and, further, to support the New Deal for CUNY legislation.”

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