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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Ask Bobby #12
September 25, 2023

The Message from the Rallies: Strength in Unity

As I stood on the State House steps last Thursday (April 25) in the warm sunshine, chanting and yelling and applauding along with the crowd, I felt ecstatic. It was wonderful to see 2500 people filling Beacon Street, mostly students who had come a long way late in the semester, determined to confront the legislature with a demand: Save UMass!-End the budget cuts!-Adequately fund our schools! And our demand was heard.

I felt equally elated the day before at our Boston campus warm-up rally. Again, blessed by a sunny break in the otherwise bleak weather (were these omens?), hundreds yelled and chanted and rallied together to show their support for our university.

But although the Senators and Representatives heard us, will they act in support of the UMass system? This remains to be seen. Thursday also saw the House’s unveiling of a dismal budget for next year that will likely bring further and even deeper cuts to all of the campuses including ours. Perhaps this is just a ploy to produce support for additional taxes to better fund everything including higher education. Or perhaps we will have to swallow the draconian budget, the product of spineless politicians who are unwilling to assert themselves in support of the institutions and social services that any just state should provide.

And even if a miracle occurs and we do get, say, a level-funded budget, still money will be very tight on a campus that has seen habitually poor funding. So, one way or another, it appears that there are tough financial times ahead for UMass-Boston.

I realized all of this as I stood at the rallies. And yet I felt ecstatic. Why? As a chief organizer of both events I was, of course, glad to see them unfold successfully with great turn-outs. But what good did they do? I did not naively believe that big rallies would necessarily change the course on Beacon Hill, although we certainly had some impact. Rather, what I witnessed at both rallies that made me feel great was a tremendous demonstration of unity. Faculty and staff unions joined in coalitions with students here, at Dartmouth and at Amherst, and we all came together downtown.

We need to maintain and build on this unity-it will allow us, both on this campus and state-wide, to confront the present obstacles and shape the future in the ways we desire, despite the inconsistent support from the Legislature and the sometimes bizarrely hostile attitude of the administration (although it was certainly nice and supportive of Chancellor Gora to speak at Wednesday’s [April 24] rally). In particular, on our Boston campus, there is a real threat to the urban mission of the university; UMB was explicitly created to educate the working class, people of color, older/returning students and immigrants. And this diversity was, in typical fashion, manifest in the speakers at both rallies. However, the last few years have seen increasing numbers of appointments of corporate-minded administrators whose primarily goals are high enrollments and balanced budgets; under this conception, quality of education and the service to a diverse community are at best dispensable by-products of these quasi-corporate aims. Unity of faculty, staff and most of all students is needed in order to defend our university against this sort of attack on our values.

By Larry Kaye

Lecturer, philosophy department

vice president, Faculty/Staff Union