Surrounded by nearly a dozen others wearing signs that said “Save our SUNY,” United University Professions (UUP) New Paltz Chapter President Richard Kelder entered Interim President Donald Christian’s office Tuesday with an envelope in hand. Passing a stack of petitions to Chief of Staff Shelly Wright, Kelder left the office with a promise for administrators regarding when they would hear what the group had to say about the campus budget planning process again.
“We’ll be back soon,” he said.
Kelder, UUP members, faculty and students gathered this week to speak out and hand in petitions regarding the cuts facing the SUNY system and possible reductions and layoffs looming in the campus’s future.
Originally, the UUP members had planned to host the Fight Back USA National Teach-in, streaming the event live from New York City. Howevr, technological problems prevented them from screening the teach-in moderated by authors and scholars Frances Fox Piven and Cornel West.
Although Kelder said he felt the turnout in Lecture Center 102 could have been better on Tuesday afternoon, he still felt it was important that the campus community discuss how budgeting issues are being handled on campus and across the state.
“This is the time for people to exchange ideas and engage in these kinds of dialogues,” he said. “We have to look at where there may be a loss of personnel or programs and then we have to think about the impact that would have on those who are affected.”
Students and faculty were invited to share their thoughts about methods for meeting the multi-million dollar shortfall facing SUNY New Paltz that resulted in part resulted from cuts in state taxpayer support. Speakers urged legislators not to continue to attack “the middle class,” referencing both the 10 percent cut in SUNY funding in the new state budget and the discontinuance of the millionaire’s tax, among other things.
Irwin Sperber, professor of sociology, said education was a tool for upward mobility for students of varying social classes, and that this opportunity is being threatened on this campus and across New York.
“This is the kind of thing that speaks ill of what the country has been coming to at the hands of corporate forces,” he said. “They are bringing our public institutions of higher learning down to ruin.”
Other speakers offered suggestions for reacting to reduction plans that are being suggested by administrators at SUNY New Paltz.
Eve Tuck, professor of educational studies, said faculty should think carefully about suggestions put forth by administrators in regards to increasing their own workloads.
“My sense is that when we increase the workload for each individual that means that we can do more or the same with fewer people, which means that some people are seen as less valuable,” she said. “I think we really need to resist models for workload increases because that actually paves the way for people to lose their jobs and not to maintain them.”
At the end of the speak out, UUP leaders and students marched to the Haggerty Administration Building to deliver petitions containing 2,500 signatures that had been circulated on campus.
The petition states that SUNY New Paltz administrators should “use ample reserve funds to help address any budget shortfalls” and more.
Kelder said UUP leaders will continue to promote it’s seven-point program for combatting the cuts in state support, which Christian estimated could translate to a campus deficit exceeding $6 million in light of the recent round of reductions out of Albany. Kelder also said UUP hopes to organize additional forums in the near future.