UUP, advocates tell state: Do right by SUNY

uupdate 03-02-22

At a time when the state, the country and the world need a next generation of informed, impassioned citizens, how better to achieve that than to give those future leaders access to the best and most affordable college education imaginable?

UUP President Fred Kowal invoked the future of the country and the planet as he opened a March 1 event at Buffalo State College that was part news conference, part rally, and 100% a united front about the rapidly approaching April 1 deadline for the final enacted state budget.

The Buffalo State rally was the first of back-to-back events that marked UUP’s Week of Action. Kowal appeared March 2 at Binghamton University and spoke March 3 at the University at Albany and March 4 at SUNY Plattsburgh. Statewide Vice President for Professionals Carolyn Kube and Vice President for Academics Alissa Karl also spoke March 4, at a rally at SUNY New Paltz.

Kowal will be at the forefront of a march across the Brooklyn Bridge March 6, surrounded by hundreds of members, students and fellow unionists from the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, with rallies at each end of the march also planned.


“What I want is a fair deal, and a damn good deal for SUNY,” Kowal told a packed room at the campus, where more than 150 faculty, staff and students from Buffalo State and the University at Buffalo, as well as unionists from Western New York cheered, chanted, brandished signs and applauded the impressive lineup of speakers. Kowal invoked the wrenching scenes of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as the increasingly urgent warnings about global warming, as he talked about why SUNY has a such a special place in the state.

“We will get more citizens of the world with an educated population, where we don’t have authoritarian governments attacking peaceful nations, and where we do have people contributing to the future of the planet,” Kowal said.


Speakers who joined Kowal included Karl; Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County Executive; James Speaker, the United Students Government president at Buffalo State; Peter DeJesus, president of the Western New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; Tom Hoey, UUP membership development officer; Yanick Jenkins, director of the Buffalo State Educational Opportunity Program; Jadell Joseph, a Buffalo State EOP student; and Amanda Geiger, a student at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and president of Polity, which is the medical student government organization at Jacobs.

The Buffalo State event kicked off UUP’s Week of Action, during which chapters around the state are holding events to highlight the need for more funding to SUNY campuses and hospitals.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Kowal told the gathering. “What we are seeking is a down payment on what we need, but also a down payment on the future and a down payment on hope.”


At Binghamton, more than 100 members and students gathered as Kowal spoke about the need to let lawmakers hear from everyone who loves SUNY and is concerned about its future. Students stopped at tables in the courtyard under the famous belltower in the center of the campus to sign postcards to lawmakers or to send electronic letters to their members of the Legislature.

Many students lingered to hear Kowal speak, joined by UUP members from the Binghamton Chapter. One student asked if additional funds for SUNY could help Binghamton hire more academic counselors; he said he recently stopped by the academic advisement center to speak with a counselor and was told it would be week before he could do so.

Kowal listed everything that additional state funds for SUNY could mean to Binghamton, including more advisers and other student services, as well as faculty and mental health counselors.

“All of this is linked together,” he told the crowd. “We’re hearing from legislators that the messages we’re delivering—they’re hearing us. We’ve got to seize the moment, seize the opportunity, do right by SUNY.”