Protesters clash at Baruch as city approves 31% tuition hike
CUNY's Board of Trustees voted 15-1 to approve a series of tuition hikes Monday evening as protesters clashed with police outside Baruch College.
Students' tuition bills will increase by $300 annually for the next five years, amounting to a hike of more than 30%.
In documents, the university system's board said, "in order to maintain and further strengthen academic quality and student support services, the recommended increases are necessary." The board cited a budget deficit, caused in part by a decrease in state aid. State legislators approved the tuition hikes in June.
Hundreds of students, faculty members 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 nearby Madison Square Park to a Baruch building on E. 25th and found that police had barricaded the street and most of the sidewalk in front of the building.
The protesters made their way up Lexington Avenue, weaved up and down side streets, stopping traffic on E. 23rd St. and portions of Third Ave. as they chanted against the hikes and police brutality, referring to the 15 students arrested last week.
Police officers used scooters to push protesters and reporters out of the street, and arrested at least four demonstrators, according to a police spokesman, for reckless endangerment, harassment, disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic. An officer trying to keep protesters off Lexington Avenue used a baton to slam an amNewYork reporter in the chest. .
Inside Baruch, Bill Crain, a City College psychology professor, was removed from the meeting by security officers for trying to approach the trustees , but he was not arrested. A CUNY spokesman didn't return calls for comment.
Cops eventually permitted protesters to march in front of the school 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, the rally. Bowen, who also works as an English professor at Queens College, said the state should instead increase its contribution to higher education, suggesting they find some of the money by continuing a so-called "millionaire's tax" that is set to expire at the end of the year.
Follow reporter Marc Beja on Twitter: @marc_beja