MonthFebruary 2018

2019/2020 FSU Executive Committee Elections – Candidate Profiles

The FSU Elections are taking place from March 1st through March 8th. You will receive your ballot through whatever email address you gave FSU. Check your spam folder!

In addition to candidate statements and an in-person forum (watch here), we have invited candidates to participate in the online forum.

VICE PRESIDENT (Vote for One)

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Caroline Coscia,
Senior Lecturer II, Political Science

Q1.  Why do you want to serve on the Executive Committee?

I believe the FSU Executive Committee is in transition from an Executive Committee that was okay with leadership holding the reins to the current Committee composition being full of worker bees – people who want to do and be part of decision making.  Changing paradigms is not easy as the transition brings about both short term conflicts and long term opportunities.

So how do we make this transition successful? I feel one element is making sure all Executive Committee members and FSU members know why and how decisions are made. This will require codifying all processes so that processes are known to all and available on the FSU website. As a FSU member if you want to serve on a FSU sub-committee, it is important that you know how to do so but more importantly that you are provided the opportunity to do so.

I believe that my experience in project management, organizational bylaws and public policy provide me with the skill sets to assist in the FSU Executive Committee transition.  Administrative policies are not exciting but are necessary to lay the foundation for the FSU Executive Committee to operate effectively and efficiently. It is essential that all are working from the same practices, which, during times of change, help develop an environment of trust and respect. 

Q2. Given the local and national threats to unions, like the Janus decision, what would you do to strengthen the FSU?

To strengthen the FSU requires providing members with a reason to join and remain a member. Each member must believe that they are getting value for their dues.  It is the FSU Executive Committee who needs to lead in making sure members feel that union membership is important and valued.

Some activities to make the FSU stronger include:

  • Information sharing is essential and must be done in a timely manner. What information do members want? How often do members want to receive information? In what format do members what to receive union news?  The Executive Committee needs to develop better guidelines related to these questions. Asking members what they want needs to be part of the discussion.  
  • As we approach bargaining for the 2020-2023 contract, a comprehensive survey needs to be prepared and submitted to members in October 2020.  This survey will not only provide information regarding the current contract and changes members would like to see but should provide additional information related to workload and working conditions by constituencies. 
  • Once a semester an informal all member gathering should take place so that the FSU Executive Committee can meet with members.  
  • In addition to a semester gathering, I am planning to hold office hours to meet with members to learn about concerns and comments regarding our union.
  • The FSU is asked to have members serve on a variety of University committees.  This process needs to be open in that when a vacancy occurs on an established committee or a committee is forming, notice needs to be made so that all members have the opportunity to serve. 
  • Each one of us is part of the faculty community, our college community, and our department community.  More importantly, we are part of the UMB community.  We need to make sure that the FSU is an integral part of the UMB community including working with our sister unions in ensuring that UMB is a place we all want to be.

Q3.  What is your favorite campus memory?

The first time I volunteered to work student line-up for Commencement. After getting students from the Clark Center to the Campus Center steps I hung around to watch the main ceremony. At the ceremony’s conclusion I saw a student who was in an intro class with me. He was smiling and with his mother. He introduced me to his mother.  She grasped my forearm and thanked me for teaching her son.

TENURED (Vote for Two)

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Jeffrey Melnick,
Professor of American Studies
  1. Why do you want to serve on the Executive Committee? I want to continue working on the FSU to build on what I have learned and accomplished in the past year.  I especially want to develop the robustness of our on- and off-campus messaging.  The FSU has lagged behind in developing the proper tools and protocols for being a fast, trustworthy voice for faculty concerns. I happily took on the (newly-developed) role of Communications Director to try to help get over some of these hurdles.  But there is a while lot more to do so that we reach our membership, our local, state, and national political representatives, and all forms of media with our pressing concerns.
  2. What would you do to strengthen FSU? Post-Janus I see a major concern in the arena of solidarity.  The FSU has not, in recent years, done a good job of forging alliances with the other campus unions (CSU, PSU, and GEO) or with other progressive forces in the region and nation. While we all rightly mourned the immediate implications of Janus, we can now see that it has opened up the floodgates to an energized public union movement.  From West Virginia, to Oklahoma, to Oakland, and Denver, it is clear that public teachers’ unions are a force to be reckoned with.  The FSU leadership has been tentative-and occasionally directly obstructionist–when it comes to building larger alliances. I want to help move us into a future that will never downplay particular faculty concerns but will try to find points of commonality with other unions wherever possible.
  3. What is your favorite UMB memory? My favorite UMB memory?  That’s not a nice question–there are too many.  So I am just going to call teacher’s privilege and say my favorite memory is the meeting of my large enrollment class yesterday.  It’s a class on the social history of popular music and we had a guest come–a thirty-something indie rock musician who has worked in and around Boston. He spoke of creative, business, and political aspects of his work and the students–the usual  amazing mix of @umb undergrads peppered him with engaged, challenging, and well-researched questions. I got to sit in the audience for all this and just soak up the energy and wisdom.

Sylvia Mignon, Professor of Sociology

1) Why do you want to serve on the Executive Committee?

My career has been devoted to social justice in a variety of professional and academic contexts. I bring a wealth of experience from different faculty and administrative positions within UMass Boston. I want to ensure that faculty and staff needs are met as they carry out the important work with students and develop  their academic careers. For example, in recognition of my history of strong listening skills and commitment to fair treatment of others, I was appointed as a volunteer hearing officer for the Board of Bar Overseers, which handles complaints filed against attorneys in Massachusetts. These skills are critical to bringing executive committee members and all members of the FSU to a place of respectful discourse and charting a path forward that will benefit all members.

2) What would you do to strengthen the FSU?

As a team player, I would work closely with all members to establish FSU priorities and then develop and promote strategies to accomplish our work. We cannot afford the recent disunity we have seen over the parking vote. The results of 52% (in favor)  to 47% (opposed), with only 52% of members voting, exposed the lack of unity among union members, and alienating a number of people from the FSU. This lack of unity has major consequences because it distracts and prevents us from focusing our energy to confront the major administrative and financial issues faced by UMass Boston. To overcome this we must ensure that all voices are heard and, as much as possible, work to achieve consensus in prioritizing the work the FSU undertakes.

3) What is your favorite campus memory?

My favorite memories focus on the hard work of our students, despite the many obstacles to achieving a quality education. I have enormous respect for our students who must juggle family, work, and academic responsibilities. Each spring at graduation time it is very satisfying to see so many hard-working individuals achieve their degrees. It serves as a reminder that in spite of all the challenges faced by faculty and staff, we offer a solid educational experience for students that they genuinely appreciate. One memory that stands out is the graduate graduation in Spring 2017. The event was held at the Blue Hills Pavillion, an outdoor venue with only a roof. It was raining madly, the winds were high, and everyone was wet and cold. We endured through the long ceremony and then some of took the bus back to campus. It was literally the dark and stormy night, stuck in traffic for far too long. As I looked around at my colleagues on the bus, all of us sodden and exhausted, I thought that only at UMass Boston would you get this kind of commitment and support from faculty for their students.


Alex Mueller
Associate Professor of English

1. Why do you want to serve on the Executive Committee?

I first joined a union in 1997 as a high school teacher and have been a supporter of unions ever since. Despite our many victories, I have witnessed steadily increasing attacks on public educators lead to our current privatization crisis, which compels me, and I believe all of us, to seek efficient means of collective action against our eroding working conditions. I want to join the Executive Committee’s efforts to create a more democratic union, one that makes transparent our methods for achieving our goals, including strategies for collective bargaining and responses to budget cuts. To establish a university culture that values labor, it is imperative that we work with our colleagues in the classified and professional staff unions in our efforts. And most importantly, we must pressure administrators and legislators to appropriate state funds to our campus. As an entity that can exert that pressure on behalf of faculty more broadly, the Executive Committee should also seek to find ways to consolidate our efforts with teachers in the MTA to insist that public school faculty – not construction projects – become a funding priority throughout the state. I benefitted enormously from my public education, kindergarten through graduate school, and I want to work to ensure that teachers of all levels continue to receive our utmost support.

2. Given the local and national threats to unions, like the Janus decision, what would you do to strengthen the FSU?

The Janus decision is devastating, indeed, but it isn’t fatal. I would encourage us to draw on the lessons of recent union victories over the last year, especially renegotiated contracts that followed teacher protests, which erupted across the country from West Virginia to California. On Valentine’s Day of this year, Denver teachers successfully leveraged a strike to get up to eleven percent raises and built-in cost of living increases. These efforts demonstrate the kinds of gains that labor unions can make if they are willing to act strongly and decisively.

I would also try to help our union think beyond past practices and learn from forms of collective action that are happening outside of our union. When the first phase of REAB (Renovations to Existing Academic Buildings) was released in early 2016, without consultation of faculty and staff, I worked with a group of faculty across my college to draft a statement, which was eventually adopted by the CLA Senate and presented to the Provost’s office. I believe this demand for administrative transparency, along with efforts from faculty and staff across the university, has emboldened other forms of resistance, including the Faculty Council’s statement regarding the candidates for Chancellor late last spring.  

Our union has served us well and I believe our current burden of legacy debt and austerity measures requires decisive action. I am running because I want to learn more about how we have been operating and how I might help us strengthen our position at the negotiating table.

3.  What is your favorite campus memory?

The English department used to welcome new graduate students by taking them on a short cruise of the Boston harbor in the UMass Boston boat. As a new faculty member, I was eager to join the cruise, but I occasionally suffer from seasickness, so I was nervous that I would end up forsaking collegial conversation and seeking the side rail. As fate would have it, I didn’t experience an ounce of nausea. Instead, I was able to enjoy the stunning view of our campus from sea, a euphoric “city upon a hill” moment for me. Whenever I get discouraged about the state of affairs on our campus and succumb to the fear that things can only get worse, I try to remember that cruise and reassure myself that such risks are worth it. After all, I’m not alone. We are in this boat together, working to stay steady and afloat.

(Two additional tenured candidates, Arthur Millman and Jeffrey Melnick, have not yet submitted their materials for the online forum.)

(Non-tenure track and pre-tenure candidates have not yet submitted their materials for the online forum.)

A Victory for Public Employees – MTA Gets GIC to Reinstate Health Care Plans

Almost one month ago, the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) voted to drastically limit the health care plan options to both current and retired public employees.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) immediately announced it would hold an emergency meeting, and urged members to speak at GIC public hearings in Boston, Lowell, Cape Cod, and other locations, send comments to the GIC online, and to attend a Senate Committee on Ways & Means hearing regarding this issue.

Now, thanks to the organization and rapid response of the MTA and others who helped in this fight, including members of the public, state representatives, and more, the GIC has voted to undo their disastrous decision.

This is a great victory not just for the public employees who don’t have to worry about losing their health care plans, but for anyone who cares about such major decisions being open to public debate. That, after all, was what shocked so many, the secrecy surrounding the initial vote.

Thankfully, the GIC seems to have gotten the message. As Melvin Kleckner noted, “I don’t think it takes a political expert to conclude our process was flawed.”

But whether or not the GIC decides to use a “flawed process” (i.e., deliberately try to prevent the public from having time to voice their concerns) in the future, the MTA has proved that they, along with other unions and everyone  who cares about people having access to health care, will always be ready to defend our state’s public employees.

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