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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Enough is Enough! Student Groups Respond to Budget Cuts

Representatives from the Student Senate, the Socialist Club, Black Student Center, MassPIRG, the Queer Student Union, and the Women’s Center, among others, gathered on March 4, in the fourth floor student lounge to launch a campaign intended to fight back against budget cuts. The turnout was less than organizers had expected, but it was assumed that some of the expected attendees were at a center coordinator’s meeting, which was taking place at the same time. The meeting began with a general discussion of why the group had gathered and then moved on to discuss future actions of this coalition.

Heather Dawood, undergraduate student senate president, began the meeting by saying that “budget cuts are starting to effect us in direct and indirect ways.” Some discussion of the possible direct effect on students included the closing and/or merging of departments within the university. “I have a concern with what the course booklet is going to look like in the fall,” Dawood said. She later added that the administration is simultaneously “increasing the tuition and cutting corners across campus.”

Patrick Ayers from the Socialist Club broadened the discussion and referred to that club’s ongoing campaign to defend public education. “The seriousness is broader than just UMass,” Ayers said, and added that he sees this “in the context of a general attack on public education.”

The conversation moved to what the members of this coalition hope to accomplish. “I want my thousand dollars back,” said one student.

Ayers presented a rough draft of a petition to repeal the budget cuts. In that petition it is stated that those who sign “reject the idea that the funds do not exist for quality, affordable education at the University of Massachusetts.”

There was contention about some points outlined in the petition. Student Events and Organizations Committee chair Joseph Panciotti objected to the line, “Students and workers are being made to pay for the state budget crisis created by the two parties of big business” and to the mention of a repeal of the parking fee hike experienced by the university community at the start of 2002. Panciotti requested that the line mentioning the two party system be removed, hoping to limit the goals of the petition and to avoid having a petition that “focuses on every evil under the sun.”

The group decided that the final version of the petition should await a larger voting body and that groups could make final suggestions and revisions at the next meeting. According to an email sent out by the socialist club the group “did not make any decisions because we did not feel there was enough representation from all the groups who want to be involved.”

The actions proposed at this meeting set the groundwork and future goals for the group. Although they are not yet official, some proposed points of unity include “Save UMass” and “Fight against budget cuts, fee increases , and lay offs.” In addition to the petition, other actions the group hopes to execute include: mass letter writing, demonstrations on and off campus, contact and cooperation with faculty and staff unions, and student speak outs on campus. Also discussed was the possibility of a debate or forum including members of the chancellor’s office and possibly President Bulger’s office. Such an event would be designed to focus on the concerns of the university community and would allow people to address questions and concerns to the source.

The group seems dedicated to branching out to the entire student body, including evening and weekend students. Those students represent “a huge percent of the student body that we need to reach,” according to Dawood. One attendant volunteered to collect signatures of evening students at The Wits’ End Café, where he works.

The group ended by scheduled three more meetings. One took place on Wednesday and the others will be on Monday March 11 at 2:30 and Tuesday, March 12 at 4:00, both meetings will be held at the Student Lounge on the fourth floor of Wheatley and various groups involved have allocated funds to cover the cost of refreshments for those meetings.

About the Contributor
Natalia Cooper served as news editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2001-2002; *2002-2003 *News writer Gin Dumcius filled in as news editor for Spring 2003 before returning to their writer position. Disclaimer: Years served is based on online database and may not detail entire service.