Williams tours York College, highlights funding crisis at CUNY

Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams (left) tours York College.
Office of Public Advocate Jumaane Williams

Public Advocate, Jumaane D. Williams on Wednesday, Nov. 11 toured York College in Jamaica, Queens, City University of New York (CUNY) to view how funding cuts at CUNY have directly impacted students and faculty.

Williams said the tour, held alongside student and faculty representatives, came after CUNY recently proposed additional tuition hikes for students, as well as a new report by the Public Advocate’s office, which analyzes CUNY’s current funding crisis while outlining solutions the city and state should implement to safeguard the institution’s sustainability and shift toward a universal free college program.

“As a two-time graduate of the CUNY system, I know firsthand how beneficial this university can be,” Williams said. “But, as we saw on today’s tour, we are on a precipice where the quality of a CUNY education may soon decline for students and faculty alike.

“This is a systemic struggle that we must combat throughout the city, across all campuses, to preserve CUNY’s standing as a top university that provides a world class education,” he added. “The city and state need to fully invest in this critical educational institution and in its students.”

During Wednesday’s tour, the public advocate was joined by representatives of the University Student Senate and PSC CUNY, the union representing CUNY faculty and staff, in addition to York College faculty.

Williams said he visited sites across the campus, where a lack of adequate funding “has had a detrimental impact on students’ educational experience, including a cafeteria which has been shut down, a closed theatre, and limitations on critical programs including childcare and citizenship services.”

“On multiple occasions, York College’s student government has supplemented the school’s budget by paying for cleaning supplies for faculty, furniture for common areas and laptops for students to use,” Williams disclosed.

As underscored in the Public Advocate’s recent report, CUNY began as a free higher education outlet before shifting to a tuition model.

Williams said tuition has continued to increase alongside enrollment, “while investment has stagnated and declined on a city and state level.”

From 2008 to 2017, he said per-student funding from the state has decreased by 18 percent, adjusted for inflation and enrollment growth.

The public advocate’s report calls for the city and state to increase their combined contribution to CUNY, “so the university can reinstate full-time faculty and counselor positions, reduce class sizes and provide students with more resources.”

“Additional funding would also permit CUNY to finance yearly cost increases, continue to expand course offerings, bolster facility quality and establish now programs to tackle underserved communities,” the report says.

Scott Sheidlower, PSC Chapter Chair, York College, said, “On behalf of the 30,000 faculty and staff represent by the PSC, I want to thank Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams for demanding increased city and state investment in CUNY.

“As chair of the York College PSC chapter, I want to thank you, Jumaane, for visiting our campus and shining a light on the very significant needs we have for investment in our students, our faculty and staff, and the maintenance of our campus,” he said.

University Student Senate Chairperson and CUNY Trustee Timothy Hunter said, “The public advocate’s report is calling for more city investment into CUNY’s senior colleges.

“It is time for the City and State to stop playing the blame game as it relates to higher education,” he said. “We simply cannot allow the world’s ‘Greatest Urban University’ to continue to raise tuition and add fees, and think that it is okay.”

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