CUNY students held a rally outside of Baruch College today as the board of trustees met to vote on proposed tuition hikes. The NYPD set up barricades and the school cancelled afternoon classes in anticipation of the protest, which attracted several hundred people including a large union contingent and a sprinkling of recognizable Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Despite the protesters’ efforts, the CUNY board of trustees voted 15 to 1 to raise tuition. The hikes will raise the price of tuition by $300 annually, a 31 percent increase over four years.
A march from Madison Square Park to Kent Plaza began this afternoon around 3:30. The rally began in earnest at Kent Plaza around 4:30 as a series of speakers addressed the crowd, including Baruch faculty member Conor Tomas Reed.
“We are here because CUNY is in a crisis,” Reed said. “The board of trustees are the who’s who of corporate New York, the privatization of education, and all-around nasty people.”
At least two city councilmen — Ydanis Rodriguez of Washington Heights and Charles Barron of East New York — were in attendance. Barron addressed the crowd twice.
“They say they’re broke,” Barron said, referring to CUNY. “I want to be that kind of broke.” Barron also described the tuition hikes as “racist” and said that “when CUNY was white, tuition was free.”
The rally was at times dominated by the union presence, which included the Transit Workers’ Union, the Communication Workers of America, and United Auto Workers. Union representatives led “Union power / Workers power!” chants, and the number of labor signs rivaled the number of student signs.
At nearly a quarter to six, protesters organized a short march down Lexington Avenue shepherded by a medium-heavy NYPD presence and returned to the plaza later. We’ve heard reports of four arrests during the demonstration.