Students' Lawsuit Dismissed
Judge says CUNY Board of Trustees did not break the law
Published: Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Updated: Thursday, April 14, 2011 21:04
On April 8, New York City Supreme Court Justice Eileen A. Rakower denied the petition submitted by six City University of New York students suing the CUNY Board of Trustees for passing a two percent tuition increase and allowing Chancellor Matthew Goldstein to increase it by another three percent in the fall if necessary. The vote by the CUNY BOT took place on Nov. 22 of last year and the petition was filed on Dec. 17 by three Lehman College students, two Hunter College students and one Bronx Community College student. The case, which was originally schedule to be argued on Feb. 15, was finally heard by Rakower on March 1.
The petition filed by the students argued that the BOT broke the law by voting on the tuition increase prior to the state budget being passed. Consequently, it allowed legislation to cut funding to CUNY in its budget by increasing the expected CUNY revenue, which was based on the increased tuition rates.
The two percent increase voted on by the BOT "does not effect a tuition increase, but rather sets forth a budget plan that, in the Board's judgment, both serves the University, and has a realistic possibility of being incorporated into the Governor [Andrew Cuomo]'s executive budget and ultimately passed by Legislature," wrote Rakower in her decision.
Rakower's response to the students' argument that the Board "failed to forcefully advocate for more state funding," was that "it is not the place of the court to inquire whether or not the Board's business methods are the most effective means by which to serve the University," echoing a statement made by Assistant Attorney General Clement J. Colucci, lawyer for the CUNY BOT, during the March 1 hearing.
Colucci said, "whether [the BOT] fight[s] hard enough" for students is not what is being debated.
Rakower's decision continued on to claim that the students' challenge to BOT's granting of power to increase tuition further in the fall to the Chancellor is "not ripe for review" as the "prospect of [the students] being harmed" by this potential second increase is "purely speculative at this point."
A tuition increase of more than two percent might be necessary, considering the $70.1 million cut in the NY State budget for CUNY senior colleges. Chancellor Goldstein might raise the tuition up to five percent as allowed by the CUNY BOT, making the second part of students' denied petition ripe for review at that time.