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

“UMass Boston is under attack!” Barbara Madeloni, MTA President, said at the recent UMB forum on April 18th. For the past two years, UMB students, faculty, and staff have suffered from unrelenting cuts to staff, 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 the UMass Boston’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 it.” 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 Amherst is not equipped to allow 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 heard about this purchase in the media when they were supposed to receive notification and paperwork for this transaction.

FSU is working with other UMB unions, organizations, and our 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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FSU Candidate Forum

For anyone who missed the FSU Candidate Forum on February 28th, you can watch it in its entirety below.

And remember to check out all the candidates’ statements and profiles for the election, which will begin on March 2nd and end on March 9th.

FSU Candidates Forum

Missed the FSU Candidates Forum? Watch the whole thing here!Candidates for Executive Committee from left to right: Monique Fuguet (Senior Lecturer in Mathematics) – NTT Faculty Representative; Joseph Brown (Assistant Professor of Political Science) – Pre-Tenure Faculty Representative; Steve Striffler (Director of Labor Resource Center, Professor of Anthropology) – Candidate for FSU President; Tim Sieber (Professor of Anthropology) – Tenured Faculty Representative; Marlene Kim (Professor of Economics) – Candidate for Reelection for FSU President; Jeff Melnick (Professor of American Studies) – Tenured Faculty Representative; George Kelley (Senior Lecturer in the College of Management) – NTT Faculty Representative

Posted by UMass Boston Faculty Staff Union on Wednesday, February 28, 2018

2018/2019 FSU Executive Committee Elections – Candidate Profiles

The FSU Elections are taking place from March 2nd through March 9th. You will receive your ballot through your umb.edu email.

In addition to candidate statements, we have invited candidates to participate in the online forum.  Continue reading

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.

GIC Restricting Our Healthcare Options: What You Need to Know and What You Can Do

On January 18, 2018, the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) voted to drastically restrict health care plan options to both current and retired public employees. The only remaining options for current employees are UniCare, Neighborhood Health Plan, and Health New England, while the options for retirees are even more limited – UniCare or Tufts Health Plan.

This news came as a shock to everyone, thanks to a complete lack of transparency. The GIC didn’t give any advance warning that this vote was even taking place. In fact, the Commissioners themselves did not even receive the proposed changes until the night before the vote.

In a Letter to the GIC sent to the GIC Chair, Ms. Valerie Sullivan, State Representative Robert M. Koczera expressed, “concern over the process the [GIC] employed,” and argued that these proceedings, “should [have] been conducted in the open with an opportunity for public input and with full transparency.” Noting that this decision affects nearly half of all MA public employees, Koczera continues by agreeing with MA Attorney General Maura Healey that the $20 million in savings is, “insufficient to justify the widespread disruption that  will be caused,” and concluded by urging the GIC to reconsider its decision.

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UMass United at Board of Trustees Meeting in Lowell

The four UMass campuses united at the December 4, 2017 Board of Trustees’ meeting in Lowell.

Tom Goodkind, President of the Professional Staff Union, and Janelle Quareles, President of the Classified Staff Union, excoriated the Board for absolving themselves of all responsibility for approving UMB’s construction plans that have slid UMB into debt and prompted budget cuts that risk destroying UMass’s “diversity flagship campus”.  They also emphasized how the Trustee’s actions have led to dedicated UMB employees losing their jobs. What’s particularly galling is that many of these former employees are near retirement-age and unlikely to obtain other jobs in the future.

The Lowell adjunct faculty has suffered as well from low pay and a lack of healthcare benefits. In fact, UMass Lowell is notably the only campus in the UMass system that does not provide adjuncts health care benefits. Communication Director of the UMass Lowell Union of Adjunct Faculty (part of the United Auto Workers Local 1596) Teresa George pilloried the Board for their treatment of these adjuncts, which has resulted in faculty members dying from preventable causes. Forty adjuncts attended the meeting in solidarity, holdings signs demanding “Adjunct Justice” during her talk.

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Upcoming Actions – 12/7/17 State House, 12/8/17 UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center

On Thursday, December 7th at 11:30 am, UMass Boston campus community members will have an opportunity to give testimony at the State House about why some of the debt should be shifted to the state as well as the impact of the recent cuts.

Contact Anneta Argyres at anneta.argyres@gmail.com for more information.

On Friday, December 8th at 9 am, FSU will work with PSU and CSU to keep pressure on the Board of Trustees during their next meeting at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center at 50 Warren St., Lowell, MA in the Main Ballroom, 1st Floor.

Join your colleagues to demand that the Trustees back our proposal that the state pay for the utility corridor, the substructure, and the new buildings at UMB.

 

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