Hunter College Students Walk Out of Class to Protest Tuition Hikes on March 5

 
Thousands of students and workers from around the city gathered on March 5 to protest the budget proposed to the NY State Assembly. This includes a 3.3 percent, or $698 million, funding cut for public education. Hundreds of Hunter College students, staff and faculty elected to walk out of class to protest outside of Hunter. They then join the rally down by Borough of Manhattan Community College and finally marched to the main rally at City Hall.

“CUNYs are schools for working class students!” shouted Jacob Rosetta, a Hunter College alumnus, adding that once tuition goes up, it never comes down.

On March 5, a crowd of hundreds whooped and cheered at Rosetta’s words where they were gathered outside of Hunter College, on the corner of 68th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. Students, professors and staff protested Governor David Paterson’s proposed budget cuts, which include a 3.3 percent cut, or $698 million, in New York State public school aid.

Sandor John, an adjunct professor of history, spoke about how he is paid so little that he can barely afford his rent. He encouraged people to stand up and fight because, “If history has taught us anything, it is that you don’t get anything without a struggle!”

Students and teachers alike stood up and spoke about their ordeals, talking about their inability to pay rising tuition and transportation costs, job losses and how pay cuts have affected their families. Many also created chants for the crowd to repeat, including, “They say cut back, we say fight back!” and “Same struggle, same fight. Workers and students must unite!”

Education is a right not a privilege, protestors argued, and parents should not suffer for their children’s education. Many protestors voiced their goals of free tuition, open admissions, and the desire to abolish the City University of New York (CUNY) Board of Trustees, who John says is made up of “The worst parasites in New York City.”

More than 11 Hunter College classes elected to join the walkout and cancel classes. Protestors then made their way to Borough of Manhattan City College (BMCC) to join thousands of protestors from other CUNY schools. Organizations such as the Professional Staff Congress, United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the League for the Revolutionary Party, the Troops Out Now Coalition, and others joined protesters with signs, stories and chants.

From BMCC, the crowd marched down Chambers street to join the main rally in front of City Hall. Protestors and labor unions from all sectors attended the rally and argued against the budget cuts, instead promoting the Fair Share Tax Reform (FSTR) Act (S.2021), which was introduced into the State Senate on February 11. The plan would raise taxes on the rich, whom proponents say are not shouldering enough of the burden.

Under current tax law, the very rich pay the same income tax rate as working class families. This leads to approximately $8 billion in tax revenue that the state loses each year. Advocates for the FSTR argue that income tax rates should be proportional to personal earnings. For example, the rates would be 8.25 percent for income above $250,000, 8.97 percent for income above $500,000 and 10.3 percent for income above $1 million. The plan is estimated to raise $6 billion for the state.

Randi Weingarten, UFT president, said that the rally was the largest of its kind in decades in New York City.

Organizers estimate that anywhere from 40,000 to 70,000 protestors showed up for the main rally. However, the New York Post quoted one city official saying that it looked more like a “few thousand.”

The rally at City Hall was one of many across the state, including rallies in White Plains, Albany, Binghamton, Rochester and Buffalo.

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