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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Our administration thinks our demand for economic fairness is ‘adorable’

It feels incredibly sad that the answer to the question “when will I get to stop talking about looming parking fee increases?” is now “when I graduate.”
Yet that really is the truth, because the word is in that parking fee increases are being proposed yet again by the administration. It feels like double déjà vu too; the UMass Boston unions are once again fighting back on behalf of all of us, and the issue is coinciding with yet another round of bad faith bargaining for new faculty and librarian contracts.
Over the course of a few weeks, I’ve encountered red flag after red flag about how the administration is handling these dual decisions. When I looked further into things, I got wind of an incident that proved to me once and for all that our administration really could not care about us. So, I reached out. Here’s what I learned and what I found out about how these two issues—contract bargaining and parking fees—are connected.
On April 22, the Contract Action Team of the Faculty Staff Union was participating in a “stand out” just outside of where parking fee talks were happening to show solidarity with the parking bargaining team. Both groups have a common fight with the administration; unfair bargaining practices.
Basically, the administration has prevented rank-and-file union members from attending contract meetings, referred to as “expanded bargaining.” The collective union parking team, on the other hand, is not currently fighting for expanded bargaining—that fight has been put aside for now. However, their parking proposal has repeatedly been dismissed by the administration over several years. The Undergraduate Student Government has also been barred from attending meetings.
This is what brought Jason Rodriquez, chair of the Core Bargaining Team for the FSU to the standout. In an interview, Rodriquez told me that he and his team have been pushing for this kind of “expanded bargaining,” and he was at the demonstration to speak about the intertwined issue.
Evidently, during a round of chants, UMass Boston’s Executive Director of Labor and Employee Relations Mickey Gallagher walked up and watched the demonstration for a while. Seeing her watching, Rodriquez made a “short speech” about the FSU’s fight for expanded bargaining. He outlined how the administration has not only barred rank-and-file presence at the meetings but has also assumed agreements that were not made and dragged out the whole process, among other grievances.
Rodriquez and Gallagher met face-to-face after the speech. And what was Gallagher’s first response to this show of solidarity from the faculty she is charged with maintaining relations with?
“Jason, you are so adorable.”
When I first heard about this, I didn’t really believe it. It’s an absolutely cartoonish and shocking show of contempt and disregard for our faculty and their needs. A grown adult in a professional role dedicated to maintaining a strong relationship between an administration and its employees called another adult professional in charge of union negotiations “adorable.”
When I spoke with Rodriquez, I knew it was true. Rodriquez was visibly uncomfortable with the situation, and it was obvious that he had no personal desire to run to the press about the issue. It was, in fact, me who initiated contact. He made it clear that he was unbothered by the comment and could “take the heat” so inherent to his job description. He explained that Gallagher tried to pass off the comment as a compliment. But he didn’t buy it. Neither do I.
What further proved this to be true was, when I reached out to Gallagher for comment on the incident and the dual bargaining issues, she did not deny the situation. Instead, she wrote only that “… [the Labor Relations Division is] glad to be entering robust negotiations with the campus’ bargaining units and look forward to working toward a new contract that honors our faculty and respects our responsibility to maximize the efficient allocation of all our resources.” She did not respond to further inquiry about the incident.
So, this is what our administration thinks of its employees and students. “Adorable” cash cows, unfit to be paid a decent wage yet fit to have their meager wallets juiced. It’s unfortunately unsurprising.
But while this is the most blatant example of the contempt that our administration has for us, it is not the most disturbing. In an interview with the presidents of the FSU, CSU and PSU—Caroline Cosica, Alexa MacPherson and Anneta Argyres respectively—I was exposed to the unmitigated insanity of our administrators.
According to what Argyres told me, the university’s overtures about debt and a lack of money seem to be little more than a smokescreen. You see, the University must report on the amount of expected depreciation of any building it builds or investment it makes. That depreciation is then taken out of the school’s normal budget and set aside for “emergencies.” This currently amounts to about 30 to 40 million dollars per year, as I was told.
Former Chancellor Keith Motley tried to use this money to pay off the debt for one of the new buildings but was told to stop by the then-president of UMass, who thought it would reflect badly on UMass’ financial standing. It proved that using these tens of millions of dollars to pay off our debt is a legitimate use of the funds—in fact, the current vice chancellor confirmed this to be true, according to the union presidents.
Yet it seems that UMass Boston simply won’t do this, and nobody knows why. These funds are dark—there are no public records of where they are being allocated, if they are being used at all.
Disgustingly, the university even refused to use them to pay employees whose jobs were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic; instead, they were furloughed, against the wishes of the unions. “This isn’t an emergency” they reportedly said. “An asteroid hitting the Earth constitutes an emergency.”
What’s more, UMass Boston has actually made a profit to the tune of around 3 million per year for a while now. So, when you are told that “we have no money” and “we’re saddled with debt” as an excuse for why you are paid nothing for next to no hours and why we cannot fix the crumbling infrastructure around campus, don’t believe it for a second. It’s a lie.
According to Caroline Cosica, the University initially hired a company called “Walker Consulting” to assess how to pay off their debt—obviously without using the depreciation funds—and this is how they arrived at the latest parking fee increase. In response, the unions explained that the high fees would reduce demand for parking, and therefore would not raise the money they assumed it would. The administration dismissed them.
Well, take a wild guess about what ended up happening. Hint—it’s not what the administration wanted.
And here’s the real insanity of it all; instead of accepting the united union parking proposal, they have decided to hire Walker Consulting again, which recommended more parking fee increases! I’m pulling my hair out just thinking about it.
So basically, the UMass Boston administration is sitting on tens of millions of dollars, and yet is bilking its students and employees out of their money to pay for its debt as it continues to commit wage abuse.
The last thing I should mention is that James Morris—an employee with the utility department—spoke to me and claimed that he and Matt Jones—a Massachusetts Teachers Association attorney—advised the CSU during the last parking increase that the university had been breaking the law.
Morris found that Article 18, Section 3 of the agreement between the Board of Trustees, the CSU and the administration states, “there shall be no increase in parking fees” until, when contracts are re-opened, a “multi-union side table consisting of any UMass Boston unions which choose to participate” is established. The Board of Trustees had not done so, and so Morris and Jones advised legal action. Morris alleges that the CSU declined to do so.
Argyres, who was in attendance that day, does not remember that specific point being brought up, and MacPherson has no knowledge of this either. So, I have not been able to confirm this strange story.
What I can confirm is the existence of Article 18, Section 3. However, it is not on the actual CSU contract, it’s a separate “agreement,” and the language states that the parking fees in question are specifically “for members of the bargaining unit on the UMass Boston campus” twice. Yet, as Morris points out, the language “shall be” is legally binding.
Whatever the truth is, what we do know is our administration has a healthy dose of corporate contempt for its employees and students.
We know they care more about running the University as a penny-pinching business, and not an educational institution.
We know their overtures about social responsibility are empty, and their excuses about a lack of money are outright lies.
And we know they engage in shady tactics when negotiating with unions and pay their employees the bare minimum.
At this stage, the only thing that will stop this parking fee increase is solidarity between students and the unions, and direct action. Right now, there are petitions against the increases being sent out, tabling events being held and efforts by the USG and Graduate Student Government in conjunction with the employee unions to prevent the worst from happening.
The united union’s proposal is a wonderful thing. It features a properly tuned sliding economic scale, where all students pay a maximum of nine dollars for a full day of parking or 180 dollars for a semester pass. Employees pay according to their means. Fifty percent MBTA subsidies are offered to all students. The administration’s proposal comes nowhere near this.
So, if you don’t want to be priced out of a university which already has parking prices higher than most other Boston universities—and for no good reason—sign the petition and reach out to any of the UMass Boston unions or the USG. Attend the demonstrations which will no doubt be occurring. We have to show that we will not accept this administration’s abuse any longer.

About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor