By Jude Klein | March 7, 2022
Photo Credit: United University Professions website
Protestors at the United University Professions (UUP) Albany Chapter’s Rally to Restore SUNY advocated against education budget cuts and for a $250 million increase in state funding to SUNY schools in front of the Performing Arts Center on Thursday.
Many of the protestors shared the belief that New York State has not done enough to fund its universities. They believe an increase in funding for state universities would alleviate some of the financial burdens on students, help assure university faculty and staff are paid fair wages, and benefit many of the university’s programs – including Counseling and Psychological Services, Middle Earth, and the Educational Opportunities Program.
“We desperately need to fund SUNY. We have been so woefully underfunded. It is so critically important,” said sociology professor, Joanne Kaufman at the rally on Thursday. “It’s all coming back to the state. We are 90% funded by non-state revenues. So [money from the state] is really only 10% of our budget, and we’re supposed to be a public university.”
UUP Albany Chapter President and sociology professor, Aaron Major, led the rally, calling for a greater focus on public universities statewide. He considered the desired budget increase “not just an accounting obligation, but a moral obligation” in the interest of students, faculty, and staff.
Faculty, staff, alumni, state legislators, and current students spoke at the event. Speakers emphasized the importance of further state funding and the many benefits these $250 million could bring to SUNYs.
To Student Association Appropriations Chair Kayla Cooper, increased state funding could mean improved mental health services on campus. Cooper proposed this funding be used for things like a mobile crisis center for struggling students and more CAPS psychologists. Currently, SA funds programs like Middle Earth and Five Quad. The $250 million down payment may allow for these programs to be funded by the university instead, freeing up more SA funds.
Despite the frustration about lack of funding expressed at the rally, many participants felt hopeful about the university’s future as well as UAlbany’s role in the Albany community and New York State. After the rally, Professor Kaufman said, “I hope the state recognizes that we are so crucial, not just to the Albany area, but to the state. The SUNY system is so important. We are the engines of change on so many levels — on innovation, on research, on the hospital system, on creating people who fill so many jobs.”