On Monday, students from all corners of New York converged on the State Capitol to say “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts!” For years, the state’s support of its two higher education systems – the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY) – has dwindled. In the past three years, the state has cut their operating budgets by over 30%, causing schools to eliminate programs, fire faculty, and increasingly utilize adjunct and graduate labor to teach larger classes for meager wages. Over 400 students took part in one of the biggest Capitol protests of the year in a clear example of student power.
All sorts of schools and backgrounds were represented with students coming from various CUNY schools, Stony Brook, Purchase, New Paltz, Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Cortland, and even Syracuse and Rochester!
The day started off with a press conference on the Million Dollar Staircase, where several students and supporters spoke out against the years of budget cuts by the Legislature and the NY SUNY2020 program which increases tuition by over 30% over the next five years. Speakers included: Jimmy Swan, an undergraduate at Binghamton University; Jackie Hayes, graduate instructor at the University at Albany; Juliet Shen, an undergraduate at the University at Albany; Barbara Bowen, President of the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY; Bret Benjamin, Assistant Professor of English at the University at Albany; Nikki Jones, Communications Director at the Alliance for Quality Education; and Karen Scharff, Executive Director at Citizen Action of New York.
After the press conference, students marched around the Capitol, stopping at various locations where students and faculty members held teach-ins on topics including an Introduction to Southeast Asia, social justice, and issues in higher education. From the teach-ins, students took their message to the legislators themselves, going to various Senators’ offices voicing their frustration with the undemocratic process that governs both SUNY and CUNY, with disconnected administrators who make six figure salaries making decisions that increase the debt burden already facing students.
At the end of the day, protesters gathered outside Governor Cuomo’s office, where 33 students, Occupy and community members, and faculty sat down in an effort to get the Governor to come and address the students who he says he lobbies for. Ultimately, the Governor never came out and the protesters were arrested for the act of civil disobedience but were released shortly after.
Video of Karen Scharff Addressing the Crowd
Early coverage: Public News Service
#M1 – #M5: Rebuild the Dream (NY + CA roundup)
National: New York Times
Albany Student Press
The Republic (Columbus, IN — Associated Press)
North Country Public Radio