Hundreds protest CUNY tuition hikes

Protesters march near Baruch College to protest against Protesters march near Baruch College to protest against proposed tuition hike. (Nov. 28, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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CUNY's Board of Trustees voted 15-1 to approve a series of tuition hikes Monday as protesters clashed with police outside Baruch College.

Tuition will increase by $300 a year for the next five years, amounting to a 30 percent increase after the fifth year.

In documents, the university system's board said the increase is needed "to maintain and further strengthen academic quality and student support services."

The board cited a budget deficit caused in part by cuts in state aid. State legislators approved the tuition hikes in June.

Hundreds of students, faculty and other protesters said a tuition increase would keep poorer city residents from getting college degrees.

"Three hundred dollars may not seem like . . . [much] for a lot of people, but for me it's two months of groceries -- that's impossible for some of us," said Meli Rodriguez LaSalle, 18, a sophomore at John Jay College. "For someone on the board of trustees, that's one night out for dinner."

The scene got hectic Monday when protesters from Students United for a Free CUNY and Occupy Wall Street marched from Madison Square Park to a Baruch building on East 25th Street and found that police had barricaded the street and most of the sidewalk outside the building.

The protesters made their way up Lexington Avenue, wove up and down side streets, stopping traffic on East 23rd Street and portions of Third Avenue as they chanted against the hikes and police brutality, referring to the 15 students arrested last week.

Monday, police used scooters to push protesters and reporters out of the street, and arrested at least four demonstrators, a police spokesman said. They were charged with reckless endangerment, harassment, disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic. An officer trying to keep protesters off Lexington Avenue slammed an amNewYork reporter in the chest with a baton.

Inside Baruch Monday, Bill Crain, a City College psychology professor, was removed from the meeting by security officers for trying to approach the trustees. He was not arrested. A CUNY spokesman didn't return calls for comment.

Police eventually permitted protesters to march in front of the building, though they were still penned in by barricades.

"Relying on students for endless tuition hikes has proven to be a failed budget strategy," said Barbara Bowen, president of CUNY's faculty and staff union.

Bowen, who also works as an English professor at Queens College, said the state should instead increase its contribution to higher education by continuing a so-called "millionaire's tax" set to expire at the end of the year.

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