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.
Students and employees who are not driven out of UMB will still be unable to visit campus as often because they literally will not be able to afford nonessential trips. Professor Beckwith already limits her trips to campus to days she teaches, partly because of the current cost. If the cost becomes even more onerous, she predicted the parking lot “will remain half-full.” For Juan Blanco, a graduate student in the Transnational, Cultural and Community Studies program who completed his BA in philosophy from UMB last spring, increased parking fees would limit his ability to contribute to the UMB community now and in the future.
“I currently come to campus four or five times a week,” Blanco told the FSU, “even though I have classes only three days because of all the community work I do in our university. I know that an increase as dramatic as the one proposed will not only affect me financially in a horrible way, but it will limit the amount of days I can spend on campus doing the work I do. Taking the commuter rail would cost me almost $30 a day so that is also not a sustainable option for me.”
These fees would push out a certain percentage of the hardworking students and staff at UMB and impose a tremendous financial burdens on those who could afford to stay. They would also diminish campus life and deter future faculty, staff, and students from even coming to UMB. So it might seem surprising that the Board of Trustees does not support the Fair Share Amendment, which would help alleviate the debt crisis that originated with the criminal negligence of those who initially laid the unstable campus foundation – a crisis these fees are ostensibly meant to solve.
Sadly, neither Professor Beckwith nor Blanco was surprised.
“More and more people are calling the shots who have no investment in education or connection to academia,” Professor Beckwith explained.
Blanco agreed with her assessment of why the Board of Trustees is being so callous towards the working class at UMB.
“It’s as simple as seeing who the trustees are and which interests they represent,” he said. “They do not represent our student body at all, especially in the case of UMB and our mostly first-generation, mostly person of color, student body.” This entire situation is exacerbated by the fact that there have been “cuts in the number of sections certain classes are given, where students are forced to be on campus five days a week because they do not have the classes they need to graduate available to them, which will only cause more delays in graduation for those of us that are already vulnerable.”
On a fundamental level, Blanco explained these fees signal the administration’s focus on “privatization, austerity, and an education model that only looks at what is profitable and commodifies us as students into simple dollar signs.”
This total disregard for UMB’s student body was noted by another graduate student, Michelle Crist, who has been a member of the Sociology PhD program since Fall 2016.
Crist told the FSU that the Administration has demonstrated, “a complete disconnect from the reality that many of the UMB community members do not have any option but to drive to campus.” And while the action may not be surprising, Crist observed, “The lack of empathy and consideration for those of us who do not have alternatives is disheartening.” It’s also disheartening that the fees are, “a roundabout way of cutting faculty, staff, and graduate student pay, which might decrease the competitiveness of the University and its degree programs.” But perhaps most disheartening of all is that these fees would undermine UMB’s core public mission. “As Boston’s only public university that will still primarily be a community school,” she said, “these increases will negatively impact anyone who does not have any option but to commute by car.”
The long-term damage would be severe, especially for the working class who would, according to Professor Beckwith, be “squeezed out” of UMB.
However, students, faculty, and staff have refused to meekly accept this blatant and ruthless attack on the working class and UMB as a whole. Lyon told the FSU that, “there seems to be an uproar within the staff at UMB,” and he’s absolutely right. The FSU is fighting these fee increases, just as we have in the past. Back in 2013, the administration wanted to increase parking to $10 a day and the FSU met with them over several months, to bargain. The proposed fee increases were eventually dropped.
At the time, the administration was closing some of the parking lots and likely realized that raising parking fees while simultaneously closing parking wasn’t a tenable situation. The challenge we face today is therefore different, but the need for solidarity is as vital as ever.
The administration and Board of Trustees should be serving working-class faculty, staff, and students, not trying to squeeze them out to fix problems we had no part in causing in the first place.
And as this fight continues, the FSU will make sure they never forget the needs of the broader university community.
For more information on the proposed parking fee increases, see this Boston Globe article.
And join other faculty, staff, and students to protest on the first day of Parking Bargaining on Wednesday 3/14 from 2-2:45 pm in the Integrated Science Complex (ISC) lobby.
Finally, call Chancellor Mills’ office at 617-287-6800 on 3/14 to tell them how you feel about the parking fee increase and what impact it will have on you.