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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

March and Rally to Defend Public Higher Education coming to UMass Boston

The Massachusetts Statewide March and Rally to Defend Public Higher Education will make a stop at UMass Boston on Wednesday, October 6th. Organized by the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM), the march aims to draw public and political attention to Massachusetts’ inflated cost of and lack of funding for public higher education.

A march will take place across Massachusetts, beginning at Berkshire Community College on October 2nd and ending with a rally at the State House on the National Day of Action in Defense of Public Education, October 7th. Other stops include Umass Amherst, Worcester State College, and Framingham State College.

PHENOM president and UMB student Stasha Lampert reports that events will take place on or close to campus from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm on October 6th, with marchers arriving on campus earlier in the day. According to Lampert, the evening’s activities will be “a mix of social and educational”. There will be a description of The National Day of Action in Defense of Public Education, which is part of a movement that began in California and is being echoed across the country. On October 7th, there will be a kickoff rally on campus in the morning. A march to the State House will follow, ending with a rally in the early afternoon. The exact locations and times of the October 6th and October 7th events will be posted as soon as they are confirmed. Lampert encouraged students to make their own signs and only had one request about the content. “We would prefer it to be student motivated,” she asked.

The march is connected with PHENOM’s multi-year, statewide For a Great State of Mind campaign, which began in January 2010. The campaign aims for Massachusetts to increase its investment in public education in order to match the national average which would decrease student tuition and fees. PHENOM is calling on candidates to make significant progress towards these goals by Fiscal Year 2012.

Gathering signature is also a major part of the campaign, and Lampert reports that passing in as many signatures as possible to the State House is a priority.

PHENOM brings together staff, students, alumni, faculty, parents, and community organizations together to advocate for accessibility and affordability in the Massachusetts public higher education system. The organization was founded in February 2007 after a higher education summit took place earlier that same winter at UMass Amherst. The summit was in response to consistent under-staffing and under-funding of public higher education. Since its founding, it has expanded to include representation from all areas of the state and includes faculty as well as undergraduate students. Also representing the Greater Boston area on the PHENOM board is UMB Political Science professor Heike Schotten.

PHENOM’s consistent organizing efforts have produced significant results, including the introduction of an amendment to increase funding of the MASSGrant Program in April 2008 along with a number of other accomplishments.

Lampert says that students are always welcome to get involved with PHENOM, stressing the importance of the issue the organization is addressing. “It’s a really critical issue that impacts their lives,” she urged to students. Lampert has been involved with PHENOM since last spring, and was elected president this past June. To get involved on campus she suggests visiting the Massachusetts Students Uniting space, which is located next to MASSPIRG, or look out for information tables which are sometimes set up around campus. “We try to make the information as accessible as possible,” says Lampert, who believes the most important thing for UMB students to know about PHENOM is “That they can get involved, and that it’s really easy.”

More information is available at www.phenomonline.org.