Students, faculty and staff staged a die-in Thursday in New York City to demand the state fully fund the City University of New York. Later that same day, Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed to some of their demands. Cuomo had threatened to push nearly $500 million in state costs onto the city. Watch a video of some of the voices from the demonstration, at which two City Council members were also arrested.
Special thanks to Democracy Now!’s Charina Nadura for this report._
PROTESTERS: C-U-N-Y, don’t let CUNY die! C-U-N-Y, don’t let CUNY die! C-U-N-Y, don’t let CUNY die!
BARBARA BOWEN: Barbara Bowen. I am a professor at CUNY, and I’m president of the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY. We are here to call on the governor and the Legislature of New York to pass a budget that includes not only restoration of funds that were proposed by the governor for a cost shift, but also funds that are needed to increase the support for CUNY students, faculty and staff.
MOBINA HASHMI: I’m Mobina Hashmi. I teach in the Department of Television and Radio at Brooklyn College. I’m at this protest because I believe completely in public education. What I know of CUNY is that it’s an amazing resource, a place for everyone in New York, the citizens in New York, to get a good education. Cuomo is damaging that. He’s systematically tearing that down.
ROGER GREEN: Roger Green, a member of the Professional Staff Congress, and also I teach at Medgar Evers College. I think this is a prime example of the continued marginalization of working-class people within our country. And we’re very surprised that the governor would not agree to support the CUNY system in enabling us to have a contract that we’ve been needing for over close to six years.
PROTESTERS: Education is a right! Fight, fight, fight!
ANNE POSTEN: My name is Anne Posten. I’ve been teaching at Queens College for four or five years in the English Department as an adjunct. I took a year off to take a prestigious fellowship, and I came back, and I couldn’t get health insurance anymore. And then I was waiting for that year to be up so I could get my health insurance again, and I didn’t get the two classes I needed to. So I’m really on—I’m like out on the front lines teaching these students and not getting healthcare, not knowing what’s going to happen the next semester, if I’m going to get healthcare, if I’m going to get enough classes to make it.
PROTESTERS: Tax the rich, not the poor! Stop the war on CUNY!
TALIA: My name is Talia, and I go to City College. And I’m here as a working-class, undocumented student who has been paying tuition out of pocket and would not be able to afford a tuition increase.
ISA: I’m Isa. I’m a member of DC 37 and the PSC, and I’m a CUNY student at the CUNY Graduate Center. My tuition has been going up steadily every single year. How much more can we take? I mean, this university was established for working-class students, and it’s no longer that. It’s becoming privatized, and there’s nothing left for us.
PROTESTERS: What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!
DAVID HARVEY: I’m David Harvey, and I’m a distinguished professor at the CUNY Graduate Center. The attack on public education has been going on for many, many years now. It’s been going on for at least 30 or 40 years. Since the 1970s, in fact, there’s been a systematic defunding of public education—in California, Michigan and here also. And you see the subsidies that are given to Columbia, NYU and all the rest of it, and we’re not getting anything. And it’s this kind of philosophical thing that public education is a bad thing, and we have to pay for it. And so students are now getting more and more highly indebted.