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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Umass Fights Back

Umass+Fights+Back

With chants of “Save Higher Ed!” and “Save UMass!” more than 2,000 people rallied at the Massachusetts Statehouse last week to oppose further budget cuts to public education.

The first speaker was UMass Boston graduate and president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Bob Haines. He began his remarks by saying, “You know why we built this building behind me? For you.” Haines spoke about his personal experience with Massachusetts Public Education, stating, “If it’s good for the Haines’, it’s good for everybody else.”

“This is foolhardy behavior,” Haines said, “cutting the heart and soul out of our state.” Haines also named several unions supporting the movement to “Save UMass.”

UMass Dartmouth student trustee, Raphael Leonor delivered some facts detailing the situation of public higher education in Massachusetts. $70 million dollar cuts for higher education, this year alone.

“The largest cut of any state in the country,” Leonor said. He also explained that the cuts suffered in Massachusetts are the worst in the nation. “Massachusetts ranks near the bottom of spending on higher education as a share of overall state spending,” and after boos from the crowd, “Let ’em hear it, Massachusetts spends only 3.5% on public higher education whereas, the average for all other states is 6%.” He went on to explain, “the clincher on these statistics is that Massachusetts is not a poor state. In fact, it ranks as the nation’s third wealthiest state per capita income.” He ended with a new chant, “Have the guts to stop the cuts.”

Ann Withorn, from the College of Public and Community Service at UMass Boston, discussed how the budget cuts will affect the availability of higher education. “It’s the legislators’ and the administrators’ responsibility,” Withorn explained, “to make sure that we don’t have to make choices that hurt the future for all of you.” She mentioned the losses to social services, many of which were also cut. Whithorn urged that an increased tax revenue could alleviate the situation.

As the rally continued, professors and students spoke about the varied impact of increased fees and lost benefits. The emcee referred to the inferior sound system. Unfortunately, the Save Umass coalition was having problems with their generator earlier in the day. A union representative, active in the campaign, informed The Mass Media that the rally was receiving state house power. Later, it turned out to be the promise of one state trooper, and did not actually occur. The rally was left with a crude, and not very powerful, audio setup.

The director of the tax equity alliance of Massachusetts, Jim Saint George spoke next, stating that, “Twenty years ago Massachusetts spending on primary and secondary education in Massachusetts was seventh in the nation, you know where we are today?” he asked the crowd, “Forty-ninth. It’s time to turn those cuts around.” He detailed the layoffs in many social services. He also reminded those planning to lobby to state, “Close the capital gains loophole.”

Director of Experimental Learning at the College of Public and Community Service, Dianne Dujon also spoke. “We need our education, so we can raise our families,” Dujon stated. “We have come here today, to tell this legislature that they need to stop finding ways to be mean and find the ways and means to educate us.”

“Stay off the flowers,” the emcee instructed. The warning was in reference to protests in the eighties, where demonstrators were blamed for ruining the flowers.

Students came from to voice their opinions on many issues, which seemed to be directly affected by budget cuts.

“Our degrees are on the line,” said UMass Dartmouth (UMD) student Kourteney Hamilton.

Daphne Claudomir, also from UMD, expressed her concern about administration’s use of funds there.

Laryssa Stecyk from UMass Amherst was one of many students who brought flowers to the state house in lieu of an apology on behalf of former UMass students. When asked why she brought flowers, Stecyk responded, “It’s kind of like a secret joke with the media,” she said, “We’re not trying to do anything like trample the flowers. We’re here to fight for a cause and we want the media coverage of what we’re doing to be correct.”

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.