TagMarlene Kim

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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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!

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