F aculty members, staff and students seized upon Education Secretary James Peyser’s recent appearance at the UMass Boston
convocation to protest faculty cuts amid rising tuition
and fees on the campus.
The activists called for adequate state
investment in public higher education, and they took
Peyser to task for opposing the proposed Fair Share
Amendment, which would provide almost $2 billion
annually to public education and transportation.
Student and employee activists packed the
convocation on Sept. 15, carrying signs criticizing
the state’s level of support for public colleges.
They booed when Peyser refused to explain why he
opposes the Fair Share Amendment. The amendment,
which is intended to be placed before voters in
the 2018 election, would add 4 percent to the state
income tax on annual income above $1 million.
Following the convocation, about 200 students,
faculty members and staff rallied on the campus
plaza, affirming their commitment to high-quality
and accessible public education.
Allies from the Save Our Public Schools
campaign, which is fighting the proposed lift of the
state’s cap on Commonwealth charter schools, also
Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson led the
crowd in chants of “Whose schools? Our schools!”
and “Hey, ho, Question 2 has got to go!”
MTA President Barbara Madeloni reflected on
Peyser’s convocation speech and called his remarks
“chilling,” especially when he invoked Henry Ford
as a role model. Madeloni contrasted the image
of Ford’s auto factories, obsessed with efficiency,
with her own vision of a university as a place where
relationships form the foundation of learning.
UMass Boston educators and students were
outraged last spring when approximately 400 non-tenure-track instructors received notice that they
might not be called back for the fall semester. The
university claimed it needed to address a budget
deficit but was not sure how many faculty members
it would actually need to cut.
Notifying most of the adjunct staff caused
huge disruption; some instructors left to find work
elsewhere rather than wait to see if their courses
would be offered in the fall. Morale suffered as
veteran professors, even those who were eventually
called back, were left feeling undervalued.
By the time the fall semester began, roughly 100
positions were cut. Even with the addition of some
new tenure-track instructors, course sections were
eliminated, which faculty leaders had feared would
In addition to seeing course offerings reduced,
UMass Boston students saw an increase in tuition
“The FSU, Professional Staff Union, Classified
Staff Union and Graduate Employee Organization
are working together to fight these cuts and cost
hikes as they undermine the mission of UMass
Boston,” said Marlene Kim, president of the
Faculty Staff Union. “Public universities have a
responsibility to the communities they serve, and
likewise the state has a responsibility to support the
mission and objectives of its public colleges.”
Union locals at UMass Boston have been
working collaboratively to address the cuts on
campus. Leaders have spoken out against the
handling of the deficit during UMass Board of
Trustees meetings, and they jointly submitted a letter
to The Boston Globe criticizing a vice chancellor
for telling the newspaper that negotiated raises for
employees were responsible for the deficit.
Their letter, published on Sept. 25, pointed out
that Vice Chancellor Ellen O’Connor was incorrect
in stating that employees were receiving 4 percent
annual pay increases. Even if they were, the writers
said, it would not account for an $18 million spike in
Union leaders are not calling for cuts elsewhere,
however. Instead, they are asking university leaders
to join them in advocating for increased funding for
public higher education.
“Demanding adequate funding for public
colleges and universities and opposing the cap lift
on charter schools are just different parts of the same
fight,” Madeloni said.
“As educators, we understand the devastating
effect debt can have on a student’s ability to
complete a degree program,” she continued. “And
we see firsthand how our K- 12 schools suffer as
millions of dollars flow into privately run charter
schools. The Legislature and governor need to be
held accountable and work with us to make sure
every student at every level has access to quality
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Photo by Chris Christo
Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson led chants of “Whose schools? Our schools!” and “Hey, ho,
Question 2 has got to go!” during a rally at UMass Boston on Sept. 15.