Students and Faculty Organize Seeking Full Funding for SUNY

On Monday December 9, faculty members belonging to the United University Professions (UUP) and Stony Brook students stood huddled together in the rain for a very good reason. UUP members and students organized in order to raise awareness and call upon the state to reinstate full funding for the State University of New York (SUNY) System. 

It all began when the country found itself in a recession and SUNY became the target of budget cuts. The budget for the SUNY system was nearly halved with state funding at $1.36 billion in 2007-08 to $700 million. Now, more than ten years later, SUNY schools have not had their funding reinstated despite significant economic improvement since the recession. This has led schools to seek private aid in order to make up for the steep cuts in public funding, undermining the purpose of a public institution. 

For example, SUNY Fredonia proposed a cut to 13 undergraduate programs including mathematics, earth science, and French, as well as 8 graduate programs. In 2017 Stony Brook made the highly controversial decision to merge three foreign language departments into one and suspended admission to undergrad programs in theatre arts, cinema & cultural studies, comparative literature, adapted aquatics, and pharmacology, and not to mention a hiring freeze.

 

Photo credit: Dr. Francesca Spedalieri | @fraspedalieri

Protesters made up of faculty and students alike participated in Monday’s rally, including myself (far right). 

 

This is especially troubling when taking into consideration how these budget cuts have affected accessibility to quality higher education for low income and marginalized students. Schools all around the state have had to eliminate necessary programs and services for students in order to make ends meet. 

While there have been some advancements in improving the accessibility of higher education, the amount of funding for public higher education in New York has remained stagnant. The UUP applauded the passing of the Excelsior Scholarship, which allows students who are New York State residents and whose families make less than $125,000 to attend any SUNY school tuition free. In fact, many of my friends are Excelsior recipients, myself included. It is the very reason I was asked at this rally to share my experience with attempting to transfer and ultimately choosing to stay at Stony Brook in order to avoid graduating with mountains of debt while also receiving a quality education. I can attest to the relief I feel knowing that I can graduate with manageable debt as opposed to the exorbitant amount I would have accumulated at any of the private institutions I was accepted to. However, while this allows more students to receive a higher education, the quality of the education is at risk when there are more students and fewer programs and faculty members to teach them. We have already seen the effects of this massive budget cut on individual SUNY schools, including Stony Brook, where we now have larger class sizes, overworked professors, and fewer programs and resources.   As students attending a SUNY school, we must advocate for a quality education with the appropriate resources and programs for us to rise to our fullest potential. I implore you to contact your state representatives about this issue so that may better uphold SUNY’s mission of providing accessible higher education for all. If you are registered to vote in Stony Brook, you can contact your local New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright or State Senator John Flanagan and demand that full funding for the SUNY system be restored.

"Thank you to all who were present including SBU staff members, members of the UUP Chapter of the SBU hospital, and members of GSEU, the graduate students union."