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1991 Crown Heights Riots

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Submitted By crappytheclown
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In 1991 students held sit in and occupied CUNY school in protest of tuition hikes that would result in 33% increase in tuition in one year. Students were quite responsive to the hikes because a year ago tuition was hiked $200 a year. Many people see the CUNY system as an attainable option for higher education to the less privileged. They come from all types of backgrounds and from mostly poor and middle class families. Students take advantage of the relatively low tuition of CUNY schools because they otherwise couldn’t attend universities otherwise. If I were a student during the times of protests during 1969 and 1991 I don’t think I would take an active role in the sit-ins but I would be sympathetic of the protestor’s causes. I believe that a lot of the protests had to do with the backgrounds of students and such would affect my stance on the situations. In1969 students protested the limited selection process of public CUNY schools. The student body of students was mainly white but minorities wanted to have the same opportunities of a free higher education that everyone else had. These protests came a few years after the Civil Rights movement successfully granted minorities immunity from any segregation. It is a person’s right to fight for their education especially in a new era of established civil rights. Being from a white background I wouldn’t protest against the limited selection process because it didn’t affect me. Although it is a human right to gain entrance to a public school without regard for what color of skin you have or what the household’s income level is I wouldn’t feel a need to protest because I could already gain entrance to the university. In 1991, protests take a different shape than those that occurred in 1969. Since 1969 CUNY schools have expanded to accept thousands more students but there is tuition now. The tuition hikes represented a $500 increase over a year which was compounded on top of a $200 increase in 1989. This resulted in almost a 100% increase in tuition in a two year span (from $800 to $1500). This was a huge increase for students who were working jobs to support their families, tuition, and

also the plenty of expenses tied to school and life. A third of CUNY students at the time worked 35 or more hours a week while also going to school full time. Many students in the CUNY system were minorities, immigrants, and/ or from poor backgrounds that were relying on a higher education to bring themselves up. Most students could barely support themselves as it was because they weren’t capable of attaining anything more than minimum wage jobs yet the universities were going to practically double their tuition. For many the schools offered an opportunity to do something good and for many of the people interviewed in this excerpt, going to school required a sacrifice that you couldn’t put a price on. Brothers and sisters weren’t able to attend school so the parents could put their first child through. The reason behind the tuition hikes was because of a budget shortfall in Albany. New York State had to cut funding because it didn’t have enough to cover the expenses. But at the same time Wall Street execs were making millions of dollars even when their companies were losing money. Goldman Sachs gave out $800 million in bonuses in 1990, a figure that could have covered the budget cutbacks 9 times. I would be strongly in favor of the student protests because they were fighting for the right reasons. The wealth gap was getting wider and wider. Stock brokers were earning more and more while the students who worked hard just to get an education were cut getting cut off from an education. The future of the country was getting sacrificed for the benefit of the rich. And it seemed that there was no one standing up for the students. Even the Hunter president wouldn’t comment on the student protests or their demands. For some reason he was ok with the cutbacks Albany was proposing. On the one hand even though I would strongly support the student’s efforts, I wouldn’t be out there protesting. The ideologies my parents taught me growing would clash with my day to day mentality if I was at Hunter during 1991. These always said to work hard and to get an education. If I worked hard I would get ahead and achieve my goals. Had I taken part of the sit-ins and strikes I would be depriving myself of an education. I would be holding myself back. If the tuition gets raised my parents would work twice as hard to get me my education and would have to work harder. It’s a difficult situation for me to place myself in because how strongly I feel on the situation is affected by my background once again. If all my opportunities growing up were shot down and I had to scrap and work hard just to get by I would be affected by the tuition hikes even more.

Because I was lucky enough to be in a relatively good situation with my family and life I am able to take advantage of education despite a $500 tuition hike.…...

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