UUP, faculty, students knock SUNY chancellor, call for fair funding for SUNY Fredonia

uupdate 05-01-24

By Kate Moran, Special to UUP

SUNY Fredonia students and community members rallied with UUP April 29 on the SUNY Fredonia campus to call for fair funding for Fredonia and 18 other cash-strapped SUNY campuses.

“SUNY is about opportunity for students and the community to engage in life’s work,” said UUP President Fred Kowal during the rally, which drew more than 200 Fredonia students, faculty and staff. He noted that the SUNY system’s financial problems stem from Cuomo-era policies that stripped funding from dozens of campuses

Kowal also called out SUNY Chancellor John King Jr., who pressured Fredonia administrators to cut 13 majors and retrench associated faculty and staff; the courses will be deactivated in June. King’s plan is to shrink the SUNY system by cutting programs and staff at smaller financially distressed campuses located upstate. Those cuts will further reduce enrollment and weaken campuses, eventually forcing them to close.

“Chancellor King is trying to finish Andrew Cuomo’s dirty work,” Kowal said.


The rally unfolded on Dods Grove, a campus green between Dods Hall and the Williams Center Student Union. It was the latest in a growing number of actions by UUP members at Fredonia to call attention to the plight of the university, which received the “university” designation almost 18 months ago but has struggled financially for years.

A sea of people, many of them in red UUP shirts, waving clappers and holding signs, urged the chancellor and the Board of Trustees to do the right thing and allocate more funding to the 19 SUNY campuses which need it most, including Fredonia and SUNY Potsdam. Pushed by King, Potsdam administrators in October 2023 announced that 9 academic programs and associated staff would be cut to reduce a $9 million deficit.

Most programs being cut are in the arts and humanities, and the campuses with the most significant deficits are located in small, rural communities where the campus is a major employer and a huge economic engine.

“We cannot afford to see dorms not occupied,” said Chautauqua County Executive Paul Wendel Jr. ” We cannot afford to see small businesses not thriving.”


Fredonia Mayor Michael Ferguson emphasized that his town and the communities surrounding it will suffer if the state does not respond to the needs of the college. He said that although Fredonia students do not live in Chautauqua County full time, they are cherished members of the community.

“Everybody that works at Fredonia is a resident and taxpayer who wants nothing more than what is best for their families and the students of Fredonia,” Ferguson said. “As Fredonia State goes, so does the village.”

Susan Parker, Chautauqua County legislator for District 4, highlighted the importance of offering public education beyond high school to more rural communities where fewer educational opportunities exist for young people. She noted that SUNY Fredonia is the largest public employer in Chautauqua County and that it brings in thousands of temporary residents each year.

“This county cannot afford to lose this university and its massive meaning in the lives and fortunes of so many who have come here and so many yet to come,” Parker said.


UUP is closely watching how $114 million in new operating aid for SUNY campuses in the 2024-25 enacted state budget will be allocated to campuses. These funds are in addition to the recurring $163 million that UUP’s advocacy secured last year. The Trustees are responsible for doling out operating aid, but the chancellor’s opinion will almost certainly influence the Trustees’ decision.

Last year, the Trustees allocated a large part of state operating aid funding to the SUNY University Centers, leaving what was left to be split among the rest of the campuses. UUP is trying hard to make sure that does not happen again this year.

“Chancellor King and the Board of Trustees have the opportunity to divide funding between the big four and leave SUNY Fredonia in the dust,” said Rebekah Gerace of Students for Fredonia, which was created in the wake of the announced program cuts. “The favoritism in the SUNY system is destroying smaller campuses. A system should support all of its parts.”

UUP Fredonia Chapter President Chris Taverna pointed out that the combined deficits of all 19 indebted SUNY campuses could be paid off with money to spare using the funding from the new budget.

“We shouldn’t be balancing our budget on the backs of our students,” Taverna said. “Close those deficits and watch us thrive.”