For the second Monday in a row, CUNY students, professors, and union members marched and held signs at Baruch Vertical Campus in Gramercy to decry the trustees' proposed tuition hikes of $300 a year.
Protests held last Monday during the Board's public hearing resulted in 15 arrests, and police arrested four demonstrators this week. "People were really keen to not create any kind of legal disturbance," Baruch professor Glenn Petersen said. "We marched, we carried signs, but the last thing we wanted to get into was a confrontation."
However, police still blocked off the school and streets, preventing protesters from entering the building. Petersen said some of the police had flex cuffs and were standing quite close to the protesters."It felt very intimidating to me," he said. "I debated whether or not to leave."
At the protest's peak around 5 pm, the crowd filled the entire half-block in front of the campus and spilled into Lexington Ave. Estimated at about a thousand in number, the protesters chanted "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" and "Whose CUNY? Our CUNY!"
School officials rescheduled classes meeting after 3 pm to Friday and forced all the students who were not in class to leave the building.
Luqman Stroud, 23, heard about the protest through friends and arrived at 4 pm. He carried a yellow sign showing a large fish made of many small fishes devouring a medium-sized dark fish. Beneath were the words "Down with the Board of Trustees!"
The cost of public education has been a sub-theme for the Occupy protests. Many protesters are students or recent graduates who are anxious about rising costs, higher debt, and grim employment prospects. Many feel helpless under the financial constraints caused by the poor economy.
Elizabeth Sibilia is a CUNY Graduate Center Ph.d. candidate for geography and works with the press component of Occupy CUNY."We knew yesterday that they weren't going to vote in the 99 [percent] people's favor," Sibilia, 38, said. "In the broadest sense we're asking them to get funding from the state."
But on Monday the Board voted in favor of all resolutions, including the $300 a year tuition raise for the next five years.
Although $300 may seem a paltry sum, Petersen said the total added cost of $1,500 showed that New York State is shirking its responsibility to provide higher education for those who cannot afford it.
"I feel like most of our tuition isn't used wisely even though some of us get aid money," said City College senior Anthony Deng, pointing out that while CUNY Chancellor Goldstein was given a nine percent raise last year and receives more than $600,000 a year, college buildings are rundown and students have to work and take out loans.
The Board of Trustees was not available for comment at time of publication.