Weinbaum v. Cuomo Historic Case

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

February 1993

Case Description 

Weinbaum v. Cuomo is a case which asserted that separate and unequal funding of higher education existed in New York State.

The Concerned Faculty and Staff of the City University of New York (CUNY) and individual students and faculty members filed this lawsuit alleging that poor and students of color were being discriminated against in terms of per-pupil state funding.

Their class action suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court in February 1992 by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), alleged that the State University of New York (SUNY), which is predominantly white, received significantly more state funding than did comparable units of CUNY, which serves mostly people of color, and that the difference between funds for each full-time CUNY and SUNY student had actually increased since 1982, when the State assumed fiscal responsibility for CUNY. Sixty-four percent of CUNY’s student population are people of color; SUNY’s student population is 87 percent white. Yet despite profound economic differences between the two populations, CUNY received $726 less per student in state funding.

CUNY was, and remains, the third largest public university system in the country and is by far the largest source of Master’s degrees for Blacks and Latinos in the U.S.

In September 1995, the New York State Appeals Court dismissed a suit asserting that separate and unequal funding existed in the state, thereby overruling a previous ruling by a state trial judge in 1993 that the case could precede.

The appellate court ruled that there was no evidence that the state acted with a discriminatory “purpose” and that existing civil rights laws did not apply to the facts in the case.