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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

To Our Confused Administration: We Matter

At the Oct. 12 Town Hall meeting at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Interim Chancellor Barry Mills stood up in front of a crowd of seventy people—faculty, staff, and students—and displayed that, over his last four months of employment on the campus, he has not even begun to understand the community and populace of UMass Boston.

He claimed that no one—not even faculty members or students—has called for salary cuts to upper-level administration. The Chancellor’s responsibility for “bringing UMass Boston’s financial house in order” is difficult, but he has made it impossible by twisting the truth and ignoring voices from the very campus he claims to represent. The release of the recent “Crumbling Foundations” report alone is enough to show that many on campus are highlighting the growth of top administration as a contributing factor of the current financial crisis.

Mills also said that the student body just “wants what other students have on the other side of the Red Line.” This insulting comment, regarding his perceptions of the socioeconomic class of UMass Boston’s student majority, completely misses the point. This attempt to restrict us to a particular class is an attempt to deny our real aspirations and is just another attack on public education. What Mills was really saying was that our students, faculty, and staff should not expect the same things that Ivy League institutions provide because, somehow, we don’t deserve it.

This mentality is nothing short of structural and institutional classism. Instead of meaningful consultation with stakeholders on campus, Mills has spread blame at every opportunity. He has blamed the students; he has blamed the faculty; he has blamed the staff; he has sabotaged the community’s efforts to rally around a common goal or pathway that leads to the continued success of the institution.

Further in the presentation, Mills placed further blame regarding the cause of the budget crisis on Ph.D. and graduate students’ inability to draw funding. At this point, a student burst out, “If you paid graduate and Ph.D. students above poverty wages, ensured Ph.D. students with four years of funding instead of just three years, and provided dental and vision so that students didn’t need to drop out when medical costs got too high, then maybe we could provide you with the endowments you want.”

That student was me.

I can attest to the lack of support the campus provides students. It makes attending UMass Boston difficult. We can’t secure funding if there’s no support from the administration. The school fails to provide support for us to apply for funding and then charges 50 percent of what we raise as overhead payments for the campus, limiting the degree that we can benefit from securing research grants. In addition, students and departments must pay for the use of facilities when holding public events. If the campus hopes to see students as a revenue source, we need UMass Boston to invest in us and provide us the support we require to compete with other institutions.

Funders want to support public institutions, particularly ones with a core public mission like UMass Boston. The campus administration and Board of Trustees both need to realize that graduate students are an asset, not a liability, on the balance sheet.

Throughout my time as a student, teacher, and union representative on campus, I’ve learned what UMass Boston stands for and the positions within society that our students will one day take. Graduates of this campus are preparing to enter a world ravaged by different levels of insecurity: we will experience job insecurity; we will experience political insecurity; we will experience economic insecurity; we will experience environmental insecurity. The mission of UMass Boston is to give us the skills and ability to solidify our community’s foundations, provide security for our coworkers, and contribute to a better world for ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.

Six UMass Boston graduate programs ranked in the top 100 in the 2017 U.S. News and World Report listings: rehabilitation counseling (24), Master’s in nursing (59), Doctor of nursing practice (62), education (74), public affairs (77), and clinical psychology (87).

Together, along with faculty and staff, students are encouraged to change the world and contribute to our local communities. This is the foundation of public education and the cornerstone of the UMass Boston mission. Our students give back by exchanging community service for the reduced cost of their education. This means that many of our students do not go into their careers with a focus on personal gain. Instead, UMass Boston students go into positions in local, state, and federal government, in nonprofits, and small businesses across the Commonwealth.

Using information from the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management as its guide, BestValueSchools.com has published its 2015 list of the 50 Most Innovative Public Service Schools in the United States. Noting the public service mission of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, the list ranks UMass Boston as 29.

So, when Chancellor Mills implies that our graduate and Ph.D. students are a poor return on investment, I disagree. Mills has completely misinterpreted our UMass Boston mission, insulted our scholars, and ignored the reason for public education. We invest in public education to get a return for our community, and UMass Boston delivers.