Students protest CUNY Chancellor talk

Screams of protests against tuition hikes served as the background for the city’s public university chancellor as he addressed an audience of faculty and students at Queens College (QC) recently.

City University of New York (CUNY) Chancellor Matthew Goldstein came to the college to address issues that faced the university and took questions from attendees.

“We’re told we have the cheapest tuition here,” said a student in the audience. “But even that is not enough to assure that people regardless of class and social status can attain the higher education.”

Goldstein explained that there must be “modest” increases to avoid sharp, sudden climbs in tuition.

“We have to have a rational basis to come to the question of tuition,” said Goldstein. “What you need to have is . . . a spending plan, so when we talk about the needs of the faculty or the needs of students or the needs of support staff . . . that has a cost.”

Deborah Lolai, student and president of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Alliance at QC, stood outside the Student Union building, where Goldstein was speaking on April 13 in the fourth floor ballroom.

“He knew we were coming, he wanted to protect himself,” said Lolai. “Let’s make some noise and force him to listen.”

This protest came two weeks after a student-led walkout against tuition hikes peaked at about 1,000 participants and shut down the Long Island Expressway near Kissena Boulevard.

The group of about 40 students was also upset about the email invitation the college administration had sent out to the entire student body less than two days prior to the event, which required an R.S.V.P while some of the student body had been invited nearly a month before the event.

In November 2010, the CUNY Board of Trustees approved a 5 percent tuition increase for senior colleges beginning in the spring 2011 semester, bringing annual tuition to $4,830. A further increase of 2 percent is slated for the fall, which would bring tuition to $4,927.

“I think that we have to have a basis upon which to levy tuition changes,” said Goldstein. “I remember tuition increases over 20 percent… that, to me, is absolutely crazy.”

In 1995, tuition stood at $2,450 annually. The next year, it increased to $3,200. In 2004, it jumped to $4,000, and in 2010, tuition increased again to $4,600.

The board also gave the chancellor the power to increased tuition by another 3 percent for the fiscal year of 2011 to 2012, depending on the city and state’s economic climate, according to a CUNY report.

“In an ideal world, if you’re a public university, the local government and state government would be right at the front of the list of places where you would be getting income to support the university,” said Goldstein. “That has not been the case in New York…for a long time.”

More from Around New York