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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!

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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