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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

No Ordinary Group

It costs a lot to learn at UMass Boston. Annual in-state tuition runs a little more than $5000, while student fees round out to be a somewhere less than $800 a year, and don’t forget the textbooks skyrocketing to be between $500 and $750 a semester. Don’t fret; help is on the way.

The Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM), the first statewide organization to bring together students, faculty, parents and alumni from all 29 of Massachusetts’ public college and university campuses, will go to the State House’s Gardner auditorium on April 25 at 10 a.m. in order to air their grievances about the future direction state government will have regarding public higher education.

“We want to show up in large numbers, hopefully, and tell them that we think higher education should be a higher priority in the state then it is,” said Alex Kulenovich, who serves both as a member of PHENOM as well as UMass Boston’s current Student Trustee representative.

Recent cuts in funding towards public higher education concern Kulenovitch, but he aspires funding to reach a level they once achieved in past years in Massachusetts.

“Right now it is floating around 4 percent of the budget, and it used to be a lot higher,” Kulenovich said. “I am hoping we can nudge things in a better direction, maybe get a little more funding then is currently proposed.”

PHENOM will meet with state legislators to promote a set of five principles they believe will help improve the condition of public higher education. The first principle is to “fund public higher education so it can serve the Commonwealth,” and to one day reach a point of budget financing that will better help improve the Massachusetts public higher education system.

The second principle is to “make public higher education affordable” with respect to costs ranging from tuition, fees, and textbook costs, so that poor, working-class, and middle class people could better afford a college education. A third aim is also to “make public higher education accessible to all,” and that not race, class, disability, nor age should deter Massachusetts’ residents from attending college.

PHENOM also looks to hire more teachers, researchers and staff, as well as to honor and expand democratic institutions of governance for public higher education, where they will propose that the state respect collective bargaining by making timely salary offers and honoring union negotiation contacts agreed upon.

State legislators, as well as Gov. Deval Patrick potentially, will come face to face with PHENOM’s principles when the group shows up with six detailed pieces of legislation that they will demand to be honored. While the proposed legislation will directly reflect PHENOM’s principles, and while PHENOM will propose the legislation with the clear intent of having it passed on the spot, there still exists an area of doubt as to how immediate their voices will be heard.

“We hope to get every piece of this legislation passed. I think they are very good bills, but in general I think we need to create a foundation for the future,” Kulenovich said. “I don’t really expect the public higher education system to be overhauled overnight, especially considering how tight the budget is. But if we can build a foundation for in the years to come, that would be great.”

Either way, any student willing to go to the State House on April 25 will benefit to meet new people who have a vested interest in making UMass Boston, as well as Massachusetts’ public higher education in general, better for future generations to arrive in the Commonwealth.

“They will get a chance to meet UMB students and students from around the state, get to learn how to interact with legislators to lobby for whatever you want to lobby for,” said Mike Herbert, a member of Student Senate who actively partakes in PHENOM’s action. “You can take these skills to different issues. And on a system wide level, just get more funding for Massachusetts.”

UMass Boston currently has 25 participants in PHENOM, ten of whom serve actively. The group is brand new, and was founded on Feb. 14 at the UMass Amherst campus, where Gov. Patrick oversaw the group’s inception.