Students, Faculty and Staff,
We are in a dire state.
We are currently in the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. New York’s unemployment rate is at its highest level in almost seventeen years and is showing no sign of improvement. Yet in the midst of this, we’ve managed to neglect the greatest possible hope our country and our community has to offer: our institutions of public higher education.
Nationwide, tuition continues to skyrocket as federal aid stagnates under ever increasing financial pressure from public universities. Students are being priced out of higher education and privatization threatens the very existence of public education as know it. College has become out of reach for all but the most economically elite and tuition differentiation threatens to exacerbate the divide between the poor and the privileged.
We bailed out the banks. We bailed out the motor industry. Where is higher education’s reprieve? Now is not the time to abandon higher education. Now, more than ever, we need Albany to invest in SUNY and invest in our futures.
What began as an action in California to take a stand against tuition hikes of almost 32 percent has become a nationwide movement to defend public education against the risk of rising tuition, increased class size and delayed graduation time. Our colleagues at campuses across the country have put out a national appeal to protect higher education from the instabilities of unregulated tuition increases, and we, as concerned students of SUNY Purchase, have heeded the call.
This March 4, we must show Governor Paterson and President Schwarz that we will not acquiesce to the whims of shortsighted budget cuts and a privatization that goes against the character of our school and the integrity of the educational system. This March 4, we must join forces with students from across the country to protect and defend higher education.
SUNY and CUNY were founded with the mission to provide high-quality, affordable education to all those who seek it. The systematic degradation of our public universities is detrimental not only to those of us in college, but to anyone who feels that education is the key to our future and the pathway to success.
Education is a right, not a privilege. We refuse to sit by idly as budgets are slashed, classes are cut and our scholarship is commodified to fill holes in Governor Patterson’s deficit.
In this spirit, we beseech upon Governor Paterson and President Schwarz the following demands:
1) NO BUDGET CUTS:
Budget cuts threaten public education by weakening student services, inflating class size, and restricting course selection. How much longer will it take us to graduate when fewer classes are offered less frequently? SUNY enrollment is at an all time high, and we will not pay more for fewer resources. We will not abide by the elimination of majors in the name of strategic planning or by the replacement of tenure-track faculty positions with adjunct labor. We believe budget cuts will hurt our school and degrade the quality of our education. We are against all downsizes to the SUNY system.
2) NO TUITION HIKES:
Education is becoming increasingly out of reach for students enrolled in public universities. Too often, students are forced to take out loans from predatory lenders to help finance their educations. Students from all socioeconomic backgrounds are affected by these budget cuts and tuition increases, but as always, working class students will be hit the hardest. Governor Paterson has proposed a differential tuition system that would allow individual SUNY’s to charge tuition based on a student’s chosen board of study. Differential tuition will adversely impact lower income students and will force students to select majors on the basis of economic grounds instead of educational merit. This will create an academic hierarchy that will damage the diversity of boards of study and hinder the development of majors such as Global Black Studies.
3) NO PRIVATIZATION:
The Public Education Empowerment and Innovation Act proposed by Governor Paterson promotes public-private partnerships that threaten the very fabric of public universities. The Empowerment Act will disenfranchise SUNY and alter the foundation of the public university system. President Schwarz has announced his support of the Empowerment Act. We, as concerned students, do not support this measure. Public-private partnerships will be used to generate additional revenue by bringing in private businesses to fund our education instead of the state. This takes the responsibility off New York and puts private interests in its place. The Empowerment Act would also allow SUNY campuses to lease land to private companies for profit. More forestry will be cut, destroying local ecosystems and devastating the acreage that spans across 64 campuses throughout New York. On educational principle and environmental tenet, we oppose the Public Education Empowerment and Innovation Act.
4) NO CORPORATIZATION:
As corporations move in, their interests follow, changing the interests of our college. Corporations have already targeted K-12 students with advertisements and vending machines in schools, turning primary schools into little more than billboards. The increased presence of corporations on campus will threaten Purchase’s autonomy and individuality. The recent Supreme Court decision ruling no limit on corporate spending in federal elections gives corporations the same rights as individuals. This shift in values is a parallel to the corporatization of public education. We will not allow corporations to “Purchase” College.
5) STUDENT REPRESENTATION OUTSIDE THE PSGA:
We demand student representation in all three bodies outside of the PSGA, as they are instrumental in making proposals that directly affect our student body and the quality of our education. The Purchase College Association, Budget Planning Committee and President’s Cabinet make a majority of the decisions that directly impact the future of Purchase College. We insist on proportional representation and voting power on each committee to ensure the best interests of the student body are reflected. Our autonomous student representatives will make up at least 50 percent of each committee and will have veto power in President’s Schwarz’s plans for generating outside revenue.
The Public Education Empowerment and Innovation Act is detrimental to Purchase College and is detrimental to public education. Join us March 4 and help defend higher education nationwide!
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