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The Voice

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The Voice is the official podcast of United University Professions, America's largest higher education union. We spotlight our hard-working members, and issues that are important to them and others who believe in a strong effective union.


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The Voice is the official podcast of United University Professions, America's largest higher education union. We spotlight our hard-working members, and issues that are important to them and others who believe in a strong effective union.



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Defusing microaggressions and enhancing inclusion: How UUP is fostering DEI initiatives on SUNY campuses

Somehow, diversity, equity and inclusion is under attack. Pushed by a small but very vocal group of right-wing conservatives, attacks on DEI have escalated over recent months as they have been embraced by powerful Republican politicians. And more than a few have been directed at public higher education. In Texas, the Republican-led Legislature voted in late May to ban offices, programs and initiatives to promote diversity, equity and inclusion at Texas public colleges and universities. Gov. Greg Abbott, a loud DEI detractor, signed it in June. Also in May, Florida governor and GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis signed a sweeping anti-DEI bill that bars Florida public colleges and universities from spending dollars on DEI programs and bans general education courses with curriculums that teach “identity politics” or critical race theory. Public higher education isn’t the only DEI and so-called “woke culture” battleground. DeSantis has said that if elected president, he will rescind all DEI initiatives in place in the military on his first day in office. In stark contrast, President Biden signed a 2021 Executive Order that advanced DEI in the federal government. Companies and corporations are also feeling pressure for DEI initiatives—which is surprising since corporate America has invested in DEI programs to minimize social inequity and better reflect the values of employees and consumers. Companies like Mastercard, Verizon and Citibank are all on Forbes’ April list of America’s best employers for diversity. Still, Bud Light, Kohl’s, Target and even Chik-Fil-A have become targets of the right over those companies’ DEI policies. On this episode of The Voice podcast, we’ll talk about DEI and an initiative UUP launched in 2022 to expand DEI efforts on SUNY campuses and create a DEI infrastructure within our union. Our guests are UUP statewide Vice President for Professionals Carolyn Kube and Tiffany Richards, a DEI stragetist with Tangible Development, a DEI consulting firm based in Latham, Albany County. UUP has been working with Tangible on DEI endeavors since 2022, part of a $50,000 AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute grant.


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Hochul, SUNY and Trump: A conversation with New York political insider Liz Benjamin

On this episode of The Voice Podcast, UUP president and host Fred Kowal talks state and national politics with Liz Benjamin, the former host of Spectrum News's statewide political program “Capital Tonight." Benjamin, who spent 15 years as a hard-hitting political print reporter and columnist for the Albany Times Union and the New York Daily News, moved to Spectrum in 2010. In 2019, she became a managing director of Marathon Strategies, a national public relations firm specializing in strategic and political communications. She opened the firm’s Albany office just weeks after stepping away from “Capital Tonight” and her State of Politics blog. Benjamin is known as an astute political insider who knows personally the movers and shakers in state politics. Last year, The New York Times printed her essay on Gov. Kathy Hochul, provocatively titled “Genial and Respectful? Why New York’s Next Governor Is a Radical.” Kowal and Benjamin discuss the 2023-2024 state budget, the effectiveness of Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature and how SUNY fared in the state budget. They also talk about recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and national politics, including Donald Trump's chances in the Republican presidential primary and possibly the 2024 presidential election.


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Mental health, addiction and recovery: A conversation with Patrick J. Kennedy

On this episode of The Voice, UUP President Fred Kowal talks with former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, who for decades has been a champion for mental health equity and combatting substance abuse—and is recognized as one of the nation's most respected voices on mental health equity, parity, addiction and recovery. Kennedy—the son of Sen. Ted Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy—talks about his efforts to bring about more understanding and acceptance of people with mental illness, substance abuse issues and other brain disorders. Kowal and Kennedy discuss how the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 came to be and where things are now, 15 years after the groundbreaking law was approved. Kennedy talks about his struggles with addiction and his recovery (he's been sober since 2011, after years of addictions to alcohol and prescription pain medications). He left Congress in 2011. He also discusses about his 2015 book, "A Common Struggle," and how his family has dealt with decades of generational trauma. Kennedy founded the nonprofit Kennedy Forum in 2013, with a mission to lead a national dialogue to systemically reform America’s health care system by advancing evidence-based practices, policies and programming to prevent and treat mental health and addiction disorders. He’s the founder of, a parity rights information resource, and a co-founder of Psych Hub, the world’s most comprehensive online learning platform on mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention. He's also a co-founder of One Mind, an organization that pushes for greater global investment in brain research. For more information about Kennedy's work, check out his website at


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Why is childbirth deadlier when you're Black?

Central Brooklyn is the epicenter of New York City’s maternal health crisis—and has been for far too long. The community, home to Brooklyn’s only public teaching hospital, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, has the highest rates of severe maternal morbidity in the state. Longtime UUP leader Rowena Blackman-Stroud, who died in December 2022, was dedicated to protecting the rights of every individual, regardless of age, race, gender or social status. We at UUP have taken up her fight because it was necessary to do so. Here’s why: Nationally, much research National Bureau of Economic Research released a reportIn New York City,maternal mortality rateIn Central Brooklyn,Black women infact sheetUUP is advocating for expanding Downstate's mission by creating a center of maternal and child services at the hospital to serve Brooklyn and New York City. Downstate is uniquely located for such an expansion, as these services are desperately needed in the communities surrounding our public teaching hospital. More needs to be done to rectify this serious situation, where it has been fueled by decades of systemic racism, neglect—and the state’s chronic underfunding of Downstate, a facility that provides health care services for all, even if they can’t afford to pay for care. On the show, we speak with Sarah Miller, a co-author of the National Bureau of Economic Research Study, which was released in January. She is an Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. We also talk with Dr. Camille Clare, chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, and a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the College of Medicine. She is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist and attending physician at New York City Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan in Manhattan. Her work is focused on health and health care disparities in obstetrics and gynecology, focusing on how it pertains to race-conscious medicine and the impact of all types of racism on obstetrical and gynecological care.


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Does Albany have the means to properly fund SUNY? You bet it does.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul released her 2023-2024 Executive Budget proposal Feb. 1, which officially kicked off what’s known as budget season in Albany. In this podcast, Fred Kowal, UUP's president and podcast host, talks about the governor’s proposed spending plan, her 2023 State of The State address, and how SUNY and public higher education could fare in next year’s state budget with two good government proponents, Ron Deutsch, director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, and Michael Kink, executive director of The Strong Economy for All Coalition. UUP’s priority for 2023-2024 is to secure direct state aid for 19 SUNY campuses across the state facing structural or projected multimillion-dollar deficits. The union is also seeking $175 million in essential mission funding for SUNY’s three public teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse. Kowal, Deutsch and Kink also talk whether state officials' fears of a recession or economic slowdown are realistic or overblown, and whether such concerns could cause Albany to pull back when it comes to fairly funding SUNY. Meanwhile, the state is sitting on an estimated $8.7 billion surplus, from higher-than-expected tax revenue. Dedicating a small portion of that money to SUNY in the budget would serve to fully fund the university system and its three public teaching hospitals. Read UUP’s press statement about Hochul’s Executive Budget HERE.


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Union trailblazer Kate Mullany and the ALSC

In this episode of The Voice podcast, host and UUP President Fred Kowal talks about the American Labor Studies Center and its connection to female union trailblazer Kate Mullany with ALSC Executive Director Paul Cole and Jolene DiBrango, the chair of the ALSC’s Board of Directors and executive vice president of the New York State United Teachers. Located in Troy, New York, the ALSC works to promote teaching and learning about the American labor movement and its history in schools. The nonprofit organization offers curriculum materials for elementary and secondary school teachers on labor history, labor songs, art, literature, and issues affecting the labor movement. The ALSC also owns the Kate Mullany House in Troy, which is a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Site. It is the only National Historic Site with a combined focus on labor, women’s and immigrant history. Mullany, who formed the first all-female union in 1864, lived in the Troy house from 1869 through 1871. Then 24 years old, Mullany, an Irish immigrant, organized 200 women in February 1864 and became the president of the Troy Collar Laundry Workers Union. Days after forming the union, the collar workers went on strike, demanding a 25 percent increase in wages and safer working conditions—which they won. In 1868, she became assistant secretary of the National Labor Union. She died in 1906. There are also plans to build a new National Trade Union Women's Memorial on the Mullany historic site. For more information about the ALSC, go to For more information about Kate Mullany, go to


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Get your student loans forgiven under PSLF: The Oct. 31 limited waiver

In 2007, Congress enacted the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program as a way to attract talented professionals to careers in public service. Under the program, borrowers who work in nonprofit or government jobs for 10 years or more and meet other program requirements can get their remaining federal student loans forgiven. Sound simple? Navigating the PSLF program has been anything but easy. Complex eligibility rules, misinformation, predatory lenders and little oversight has made it nearly impossible for eligible borrowers to achieve loan forgiveness through PSLF. According to NPR , 99 percent of PSLF applications were denied in 2018. But things have begun to change under the Biden Administration. In October 2021, the administration put in place a limited PSLF waiver, which temporarily sets aside complicated program rules, allowing more borrowers to qualify for loan forgiveness. But this offer won’t last for much longer. It expires Oct. 31. In this episide of The Voice, host and UUP President Fred Kowal talks about the PSLF waiver with UUP statewide Secretary-Treasurer Jeri O’Bryan-Losee, who runs UUP’s virtual student debt clinics, which have helped thousands of our members get more than $2.1 million in student debt forgiven through the PSLF program. You can register to attend a debt clinic HERE. O'Bryan-Losee will explain the limited PSLF waiver and the first steps borrowers must take to get their loans forgiven under PSLF. Last year, she served as a primary negotiator representing student loan borrowers for the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, Affordability and Student Loans Committee. The committee’s work resulted in changes to the PSLF program and proposals for state-level changes. In 2021, O'Bryan-Losee had $74,000 in student loans forgiven under PSLF. Kowal also talks with Pattie Samson, a UUP member at SUNY Morrisville, who had $84,000 in federal loans forgiven through PSLF. Sampson. A senior counselor at SUNY Morrisville’s Senior Health Center, attended UUP’s student debt clinics.


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Environmental justice, electric cars and a greener SUNY

From finding new homes for desks and other surplus items at SUNY to electric cars, New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and the federal Inflation Reduction Act, this episode of The Voice podcast is fully focused on the environment. Host Fred Kowal discusses the landmark Inflation Reduction Act and the positive impact it can have on the environment and how it advances environmental justice for low-income areas, communities of color and Tribal communities. Kowal also talks about the CLCPA and where the process to implement New York’s sweeping environmental protection stands. And there’s conversation about several state bills being pushed by UUP to make SUNY greener and a green energy leader. Kowal speaks with Sue Fassler, director of sustainable operations at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Fassler is a UUP member who co-chairs UUP’s statewide Environmental Issues and Advocacy Committee. He also speaks with Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates NY. Iwanowicz has served as acting commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and deputy secretary for the environment. He was the first director of the New York State Office of Climate Change.


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Addressing abortion rights in a post-Roe world

On this episode of The Voice, UUP president and host Fred Kowal discusses steps being taken to preserve and guarantee abortion rights in New York state just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The court's 6-3 ruling nullified the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, which recognized abortion as a constitutional right. On the show, Kowal speaks with state Sen. Cordell Cleare and state Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, prime sponsors of the Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program. If approved, the bill would set aside $50 million to fund grants to help women access safe abortion services—including women traveling to New York from states where abortions are illegal. Cleare is also sponsoring a bill that would require SUNY to offer abortion services at all of its campuses. Kowal also speaks with Alissa Karl, UUP's statewide vice president for academics, and the liaison to UUP’s Women’s Rights and Concerns Committee.


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A conversation with AFT President Randi Weingarten

From gun safety reform and protecting students and teachers in the classroom to women’s reproductive rights, public health care, and the environment, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten speaks truth to power. She doesn't pull punches and isn't afraid to say what needs to be said on these and other important topics. On this episode of The Voice, Randi offers some pointed opinions as she shares her thoughts with host--and UUP President--Fred Kowal on the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade and nullified the constitutional right that provided access to a safe abortion in the U.S. She also discusses gun violence and the need for more gun safety laws; President Joe Biden's low poll numbers; the impact of recent decisions by the Supreme Court; and the absolute necessity for listeners to vote in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections.


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Addressing systemic racism in Buffalo

In this episode of The Voice podcast, host and UUP President Fred Kowal speaks with three leaders of Buffalo's Black community about systemic racism in Buffalo and the impact of the racially motivated May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo that killed 10 people, all of whom were Black, and wounded three others. Our guests are: Janique CurryDr. Henry-Louis Taylor, Jr.Pastor James Giles,


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A conversation with retired UUP President Nuala McGann Drescher

Welcome to The Voice Podcast, the official podcast of United University Professions, the nation's largest higher education union. In our debut podcast, UUP President Fred Kowal talks with past UUP President Nuala McGann Drescher. McGann Drescher, who served from 1981 through 1987, is the union's first woman president. A Distinguished Service Professor Emerita at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, McGann Drescher oversaw the overwhelming ratification of two three-year contracts with the state. Those contracts also created what is now the UUP-SUNY Joint Labor Management Committees. One of those programs, the Dr. Nuala McGann Drescher Diversity and Inclusion Leave Program, is named for her. UUP represents the faculty and professional staff at state-operated SUNY campuses and public teaching hospitals across New York state. UUP is Local 2190 of the statewide union, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and national union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).