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Manu Thakral on UMB Parking Fees for the Handicapped

Testimony by Manu Thakral for Parking Bargaining delivered on October 31, 2018.

I am a newly appointed Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences on Sept. 1, 2018. I am requesting that the accessible parking spots in the Campus Center be exempt from the proposed surcharge for parking on campus and instead be the same cost as off-campus parking. This accommodation can be accomplished within the University’s current parking system by allowing me to purchase a parking pass at the cost of off-campus parking.

Why I need this accommodation:

My disability requires that I use a manually propelled wheelchair 100% of the time. This circumstance makes it difficult for me to traverse long distances, in particular through snow. My job performance is directly related to the ease of access to campus because being on campus increases my availability to students, potential to build collaborative partnerships with other faculty, and receive mentorship. Currently I drive my car to campus and park under the Campus Center, which provides the best access to my office in the Science Center Building. I don’t use public transportation because the MBTA station at JFK/UMass has a very long ramp with multiple levels that is not possible for me to cross with my wheelchair. I teach a freshman seminar course on Tuesdays and Thursdays and have scheduled meetings on Wednesdays,which require that I commute to campus at least three times a week. Being junior faculty, I also want to engage in professional development activities on campus, especially in teaching. Increasing the parking rate of my preferred accessible parking will decrease my ability to access the campus and negatively affect my job performance.

Why the current off-campus parking does not meet my needs:

Accessible parking at the off-campus site at Bayside Expo is limited to 20 spots for all faculty, staff and students. The shuttle to and from this site is very crowded and the parking is uncovered. In bad weather conditions, these spots are not accessible. If I were to park at Bayside and there was any accumulation of snow on my car, I wouldn’t be able to clean the snow off my car. If there is snow on the ground, it is a huge burden for me to push my wheelchair. Access from the West Garage is limited because the closest accessible entrance is either the ISC lobby or freight entrance to the Quinn Building across the street and up the ramp. This area is also difficult to traverse in rain or snow using my wheelchair. That leaves the accessible parking spots under the Campus Center as the only covered parking available that provides underground access to all of the main buildings without having to push my wheelchair a far distance or through inclement weather.

Because the cost of parking under the Campus Center is proposed to increase above the lower rate offered at the off-campus parking site, and because this is the only reasonable option for me to park given my disability, I am requesting equal opportunity to pay the lower rate for parking as other commuters.

At the risk of losing you, I want to say, when people look at me, they think: wow, how can she be a nurse and use a wheelchair? It makes people rethink what nursing is and acknowledge that maybe they aren’t aware of all the possibilities of what a nurse can do. That is what is amazing about diversity. My presence on campus can do that, but I need to be here; people need to see me. The reason that I came to UMass was because of the diversity. The faculty in my department convinced me that they were committed to the mission. It is hard for me to understand how a university that celebrates diversity would take actions to make it harder for me to be here on campus to contribute my diversity.

The Role of Public Higher Education and UMass Boston

Edited remarks by Marlene Kim from an address given at UMB on October 4, 2018

Public higher education serves the public good: it benefits more than just the college graduate.  Because it helps the larger community, we should subsidize higher education more than we do so today. 

How does it benefit others?  Wages increase from college educations: college graduates earn millions more during their lifetime compared to non-college graduates.  They pay higher taxes as a result to their state and to the federal government.  Crime is reduced because college graduates are more likely to be employed and are less likely to commit crimes.  In college, we teach people how to think critically, so we produce informed citizens who can make important decisions at the ballot box.  College education increases productivity. It’s no wonder that the post World War II boom was in part due to  the GI bill that gave free college educations to war veterans.  Thus, public higher education is an economic development model for Boston, which is why federal and state money should fund public higher education. 

The state and federal government especially should fund UMass Boston.  UMass Boston is unique.  We are a majority minority campus.  We serve English as a Second Language learners, low-income students, and first generation students.  We serve the underserved. 

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FSU President Marlene Kim’s remarks to the Board of Trustees, UMass Lowell, 9/19/18

I am the President of the Faculty Staff Union at UMass Boston.  I broke my leg this past weekend, so I wasn’t going to address you today.  But I decided to appear because I wanted to tell you that UMass Boston is broken.  We’ve been appearing at Board of Trustees meetings for over two years to tell you that it is broken, but we have received few resources and little help. 

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Professor Emilio Sauri’s Response to Professor Stacy D. VanDeveer

I want to thank Stacy D VanDeveer for his comments on the parking bargaining posted recently on the FSU blog. Professor VanDeveer’s comments provide a useful perspective on how we might approach the issue of parking as a bargaining unit. That said, in the spirit of collegial debate, I’d like to respond to the three points he makes in his post.

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Opinion from Professor Stacy D. VanDeveer on Parking Bargaining

FSU Colleagues,

Marlene Kim and a few others have very generously listened to my concerns about our union’s demands that UMass students and programs subsidize faculty to drive their cars to campus. I think this is bad policy on social justice, community impact and environmental grounds. My concerns are threefold: Continue reading

Open Letter on Parking Bargaining from FSU Member Bonnie Miller

Dear Faculty,

I attended the FSU meeting today on parking, and the turnout was pretty light. I get it because my schedule is crazy, too, but this parking issue is too important to let our busy schedules get in the way. So in order to make sure everyone is in the loop, I am going to break it down here for everyone.

The proposal on the table from the administration is awful. The biggest problem as I see it (from a faculty perspective) is that they have removed the multi-park passes, which means that you would have to buy semester/annual passes in order to get a pre-tax discount, and many of us don’t come in enough days to make buying a semester or annual pass worth it. This means we would be stuck paying the $15/per day rate. You cannot get the tiered rate unless you purchase the semester/annual passes. This will very quickly eat up that 2% raise we just got. We need to be incentivized to come to campus, not to stay at home! I could go on and on about other issues, especially when you consider our students and their financial situations, but I will leave it at that for now.

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Insult to Injury: UMass’ Acquisition of Mt. Ida College and What Happens Next

“UMass Boston is under attack!” said Barbara Madeloni, MTA President, at the recent UMB forum on April 18th. For the past two years, UMB students, faculty, and staff have suffered from unrelenting cuts to programs, courses, centers, institutes, and more, not to mention additional challenges like the increased parking fees that will have severe short and long term repercussions for the entire community. All the while, administrators, the Board of Trustees, and others have justified these austerity measures by claiming that they are necessary in order to deal with UMB’s debt. Yet they don’t seem to mind UMass Amherst’s taking on Mt. Ida’s $55 to $70 million debt as part of this deal.

Perhaps what’s most galling is that UMB, the UMass system’s diversity flagship, has been denied money for new buildings and repairs it has desperately needed for decades. At the same time, UMass Amherst, the system’s elite flagship, can purchase for itself a second campus to enjoy the “pastoral base of operations for internships and academic collaborations” that this new 72-acre campus will provide.

It’s easy to see why Barbara Madeloni and Joan Vennochi of The Boston Globe calls this whole affair “an education in institutional racism”  in their scathing assessments of what this deal means for UMB and why Arthur Mabbett, chairman emeritus of the UMB Board of Visitors, believes this purchase will further the inequality between UMass Boston and UMass Amherst.

All these concerns and more were voiced at the April 18th meeting at UMB that drew hundreds of attendees. Professional Staff Union President Tom Goodkind warned this was, “an acquisition that…ultimately threatens to bleed us dry.” UMB undergraduate student government president Katie Mitrano observed, “putting another campus in the vicinity of Boston makes it harder for our working-class, majority-minority students to compete for jobs, internships and money in a city that already has dozens of schools competing for them.” And FSU President Marlene Kim said that UMB “will lose programs…faculty and staff, and we will lose the underserved,” a stark reminder that this Mt. Ida deal is part of a larger assault on UMB and its mission (her full statement can be found here).

Mt. Ida students, faculty, and staff have also obviously been hurt. All 280 faculty and staff are being laid off, while students are suddenly being forced to enroll at UMass Dartmouth over 50 miles away from Mt. Ida. Instead of focusing on finishing up major requirements and prepping for final exams, they must acclimate themselves to an entirely new university setting. A group of outraged parents is considering filing a class-action suit. The students at Mount Ida don’t want this deal, and UMass Dartmouth is not equipped to allow all students to complete their majors.

Part of the reason students and their families are scrambling is because this entire deal came as a shock to everyone. Mabbett admitted he was “blindsided” by the news, as were many state senators. In fact, there will be an oversight hearing regarding the pending deal because of the utter lack of transparency – even the Board of Higher Education was surprised – they only heard about this purchase in the media even though they were supposed to have already  received notification and paperwork for this transaction.

FSU is working with other UMB unions, organizations, students, and Mt. Ida parents to protest this acquisition at the upcoming Board of Higher Education’s Academic Affairs Committee meeting on Tuesday, April 24, at 9 pm at One Ashburton Place, Conference Room 1 on the 21st floor. Please attend!

Upcoming Action – Speaking Out on the Mt. Ida Acquisition Deal

FSU and other unions are working with the Mt. Ida community to protest this acquisition. The next opportunity to voice your concerns will be at the upcoming Board of Higher Education’s Academic Affairs Committee meeting.

This meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 24, at 9 am at One Ashburton Place, Conference Room 1 on the 21st floor. If you want to give a three minute public comment, email EQuiroz@dhe.mass.edu.

Supporting Students with Uncertain Immigration Statuses

At UMass Boston, almost half of the student population comes from immigrant families and many students and staff are DREAMers with undocumented or uncertain legal status. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and undocumented students at UMass Boston are not eligible for public sources of financial aid. Those with DACA and TPS status can pay in-state tuition rates, but immigrants without those temporary statuses are often not eligible, even if they grew up in Massachusetts. These students often take 8-10 years to complete a UMass Boston bachelor’s degree because they are paying by course. Without DACA, undocumented students are unable to acquire legal employment. Nationally, an estimated 800,000 young people have DACA status.

When President Trump declared that DACA was to terminate on March 5, 2018, I witnessed DACA students experience extreme psychological and emotional stress as they faced living in the U.S. once again without legal status or protection from deportation. As the March 5th deadline approached, federal judges ordered the Trump administration to temporarily reinstate parts of DACA, including allowing DACA recipients to renew their protected status. DREAMers, as well as our students from Haiti and El Salvador with TPS (Temporary Protected States), are living in limbo. They are a part of the fabric of our Boston communities, yet federal laws seek to exclude them.

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Firsthand Accounts of the Severe Day-to-Day Damage of Parking Fee Increases at UMB

In late January of this year, the UMass Boston administration announced parking fee increases from the current daily rate of $6 per day to $15 per day on campus and $9 per day at Bayside once the new parking garage opens. This new fee structure was adopted on the recommendations of a report by the Walker Parking Consultants.

These increases would have a devastating impact on the entire UMass Boston community, amounting to an immediate pay cut for faculty and staff and a tuition increase for students.

The FSU reached out to students, faculty, and staff to hear first-hand how increased parking fees would affect their lives and the future of UMB.

“It will be really difficult,” Professor Beckwith warned, “for students who ha[ve] already committed themselves to degree programs [and] workers who can’t immediately go somewhere else.” Consequently, “we’re going to lose a lot of students’ both now and in the future.” This is obvious to undergraduates, a well – “Some students might just have to drop out due to not being able to afford the parking,” said sophomore Mitchell Lyon.

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