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. UUP statewide and chapter leaders, joined by students and many advocates of public higher education, flanked Kowal as he spoke up for an additional $250 million to SUNY. The union is asking that $150 million of that money go to the desperately overworked and understaffed SUNY hospitals, all of which bore a heavy burden during the coronavirus pandemic.


“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 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; Alissa Karl, UUP statewide vice president for academics; 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.”