Andrew Cuomo, the archetypal politician — fickle, conviction-less, his soul shriveled to a crushing singularity from which only ego can escape — has of late been feeling the political winds blowing left-wise and has grudgingly drifted accordingly. Indeed, a Martian visitor freshly descended to the Empire State might be forgiven if, surveying recent political developments, she came to the belief that the governor is motivated by progressive ideals. Ignorant of history and blessedly unfamiliar with the howling void at the center of Cuomo’s being, she might look at his recent advocacy for paid family leave or increases in the minimum wage and conclude that he is committed to the use of government to benefit and protect working-class New Yorkers.
Our Martian might believe this, that is, until she came across the headlines of the past few months announcing Cuomo’s plan to gut nearly half a billion dollars in state funding — a full 30 percent — from the City University of New York. CUNY, the public conglomeration of community colleges, four-year institutions, and graduate and professional schools that serves students in New York City, is the third largest university system in the United States. Thirty-eight percent of its quarter of a million students are immigrants. Three-quarters of them are people of color. Forty-two percent represent the first generation in their family to go to college. As Barbara Bowen, the head of CUNY’s faculty union, puts it, “You can’t be progressive without being progressive on CUNY. Cuomo’s position is a glaring swerve from his position of being the champion of working people and people of color.”