Marlene Kim’s address to the Board of Trustees, 9/20/17
I am here today because I am concerned about my university, UMass Boston.
UMass Boston serves first generation college students. A majority of students are ethnic and racial minorities. Almost half are English language learners and have low enough incomes to qualify for Pell Grants. We give students the opportunity to learn at a research university and the support they need so they can thrive. This has meant smaller classes, and faculty who care about them. Without this, they don’t make it.
It’s impossible to cut over $25 million this year and not hurt the academic quality we provide.
You are already hurting our students.
Chairs and Deans were told to cut faculty and courses. And they did. Even when chairs argued against some of these cuts—because the students need these to graduate—they were cut anyway.
Because courses were cancelled that students need, some have to delay their graduation as a result because they are unable to fulfill their requirements. They have to pay more tuition and fees as a result—and our students are least able to pay.
Since student enrollment is up, that means that classes are larger. Faculty cannot give the attention to students that these students need.
Job searches have not been approved, which will lead to even fewer faculty and fewer courses. Departments that lost faculty have not been authorized to replace these faculty. Unless departments get authorization soon, we will not be able to advertise to replace these.
Departments cannot find non- tenure track faculty to teach classes in the spring of 2018. So classes needed for majors will not be taught. No one wants to come through a construction zone three days/week and teach here. It’s too difficult. And they don’t have any guarantees that they will be able to continue to teach these courses. They don’t want to spend time prepping to teach a course they may never teach again. NOTE: THIS PROBLEM HAS NOW BEEN RESOLVED.
Cutting $25 million from our budget is behind this. Much of the cost on our campus is from construction of the new buildings that we sorely needed—from depreciation and interest payments. But when the university was first built in the 1970s, it needed immediate replacement already because of faulty construction and fraud. We have never been given the money needed to replace the original construction. We are asking for your help: to fully fund the construction we need, including the utility corridor and substructure costs. Because without this, students pay—through higher tuition and fees or less instruction. An accounting professor at my university–she has a PhD in accounting–says that depreciation should not be counted as a cost. As long as the cash flow is positive, we are healthy. She says we should not have to cut $25 million from our budget this year. We don’t have to harm our students and our educational quality.
Another thing that is hurting us is being held to measurements that don’t fit us.
We are told that our student/faculty ratio is too low. Of course, having a lower student/faculty ratios is better for students. But one of the reasons ours is lower is because we don’t have many graduate students teaching, so we have more non-tenure track faculty teaching.
Our university is increasing this ratio by increasing graduate student teaching and reduce teaching by non-tenure track faculty: you are both increasing the numerator and reducing the denominator in the student/faculty ratio.
But the result is that non-tenure track faculty who developed courses and have always taught these are no longer teaching these courses that they are expert at. Instead, graduate students are now teaching these.
Does this make sense? Instead of the faculty who developed and are expert in these courses teaching them, we have people who will constantly be new to teaching these courses because they will leave once they graduate. This is what is occurring at our university because we have to increase the student/faculty ratio,
We are losing sight of what we are here to do: to offer excellent public education at a good price for students in the Commonwealth who are least able to afford us.
We are told that we have no choice: we have to increase the student/faculty ratio. We have to cut $25 million from the budget. But this directive is coming from you, the Trustees, and the President’s Office. So we are here to tell you the consequences of this.
Public higher education is at a crossroad in Boston: Will you, the Trustees, continue to provide excellent public higher education at UMass Boston, or will you not?
Will you hold us to these measurements that don’t make sense and that reduce the educational quality on our campus?
Will you make us cut $25 million from our budget this year, when this will certainly hurt our students, and when experts in the field say that we don’t need to do this?
Will you fully fund the new construction we have sorely needed from the day our campus opened, including the substructure, utility corridor, and new buildings we have long needed?
We at UMass Boston are committed to offering excellent education at our university. Are you?