Protest at Chancellor Gora’s Office


Protest at Gora´s Office

Natalia Cooper

Parents and children from the UMass Boston Early Learning Center (ELC) made their way up to Chancellor Jo Ann Gora’s office last week to protest the university’s withdrawal of funds from the center. After an emergency meeting of staff and parents the night before, parents came to UMass on Thursday, April 25, children in tow, to increase visibility for the center’s dilemma.

The university has decided to pull out almost $250,000 worth of funding to the center, which provides day care services for 22 current UMass students, 9 UMB staff members, and 4 former students. If the center is forced to close its doors, 11 teachers at the center and 9 work-study students will lose their jobs. In addition to the action here at UMass on April 25, parents were on hand at the state house later in the day to protest university-wide cuts. They also plan to attend another rally at the state house on May 6, to protest cuts in social services across the state. Parents and teachers have started a petition and set up phone trees to contact senators and representatives.

The group met in the Quinn Administration Building lobby at 10:00 AM. They reconvened outside the chancellor’s office on the third floor, about twenty minutes later. They were seeking an audience with the chancellor. The twenty or so protesters were holding signs and singing, “We are UMass, mighty, mighty UMass.”

“I’m going to tell Chancellor Gora she can’t close down my center,” said Siena, a three year old, one of 13 toddlers currently enrolled at the center.

Shortly after 10:30 AM, Chancellor Gora arrived at the office. She pushed her way past the crowd, went into her office, and promptly shut the door. She refused to speak with the protestors. A few minutes later someone in her office called Campus Safety, after demanding once that the protestors leave the chancellor’s office.

Campus Safety officials arrived moments later, with approximately a half dozen officers. One representative from Campus Safety said, “You want to meet with the chancellor? She won’t even meet with me one on one.”

The officer went on to tell parents that if they did not leave the office they would be arrested. He then asked if they knew what happens to kids when their parents get locked up. The officer then answered his own question by saying, DSS. The thirty or so protestors, did leave the office, but continued to walk through the UMass campus holding signs and singing the “Mighty, Mighty UMass” song.

No teachers from the ELC were present at the chancellor’s office. Teachers could not accompany the parents and children, because of a memo from Dean of Student Affairs Stephanie Janey dated April 24. The memo was hand-delivered the same day by Chris Hogan, from Janey’s office. It was addressed to Interim Director Sandra Bispham-Parkin and referred to “demonstrations planned on campus to protest against the proposed cuts to the Child Care budget.” Janey wrote in the memo, “I am instructing you not to bring the Early Learning Center staff or the children who are under your care to campus for these demonstrations.” The letter also suggested that Bispham-Parkin encourage parents “to seek an alternate way to express their concerns.”

When asked about the letter later on, Janey said, “It was instructing them not to come on campus. Yes, of course, it puts me in an awkward position, but I was caught between a rock and a hard place and that needed to happen.” Janey admitted that while she does have some control over the staff, she has no control over parents.