CUNY students and staff rally for government funding for repairs

Leaking toilets, missing ceiling tiles, broken doors.

These are just a few problems plaguing the City University of New York’s aging buildings that supporters of the school system hope can be repaired with additional funds they are asking for in the state budget.

CUNY students and staff rallied at Lehman College Wednesday to demand a “New Deal for CUNY” and an additional $500 million in the state budget.

Speakers said that in addition to helping with much-needed repairs, these funds are also needed to hire enough faculty and staff and reduce or work toward free tuition.

“Ceiling tiles fall on your head. Bathrooms and Libraries That Don’t Work,” Penny Lewis, Ph.D. Graduate and faculty member said at the rally.

“Things that would be a crisis at any other university are things that we just have to accept, things that we should just expect at CUNY. It’s time for that,” she said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget is $792.8 million in funding — an increase of a few hundred million dollars from this year.

But officials at CUNY, where buildings average over 50 years old, have said they need $1.247 billion to meet the university’s capital needs.

Penny Lewis, a CUNY Ph.D.  Graduate and faculty member speaks at rally.
Penny Lewis, a CUNY Ph.D. Alumni and faculty member said the conditions of CUNY infrastructure would pose a crisis at any other university.
Desiree Rios for PSC/CUNY
City College campus view, NYC.
The protesters demanded an additional $500 million in the state budget to fix the infrastructure problems.
Angel Chevrestt

A coalition of union faculty and staff, students and community groups calling itself the CUNY Rising Alliance was also formed #CrumblingCUNY to share pictures of decay. The social media hashtag has been inundated with photos of water damage, shelves falling off walls, busted thermostats, and out-of-order escalators and water stations — at least one of them Plants grow from it.

Wednesday’s rally was the latest in a series that includes the CUNY Rising Alliance, which has also campaigned for elected officials and testified in Albany.

Sources said the $500 million working capital increase found in Senate and Assembly budget decisions is still on the table while lawmakers finalize priorities.

“Building repairs are not being made on time, more than half the faculty — myself included — are not receiving a living wage or job security, and there are not enough mental health counselors,” said Ruth Wangerin, a faculty member at Lehman College, in the praises her students sang.

“Their teachers want the best for them,” she says. “Now let the state government and Albany do their best for them.”

Lehman College PSC chair Ruth Wangerin speaks at a rally.
Lehman College PSC chair Ruth Wangerin said she and other CUNY faculty members do not earn a living wage and have no job security.
Desiree Rios for PSC/CUNY CUNY students and staff rally for government funding for repairs


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