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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Lost “Harvard of the Poor”

Originally, in the 1960s, UMB was known as the “Harvard of the Poor.” Today, our political machine’s decisions are creating a larger pool of poor and working class traditional students from attending UMB. Adult learning is again stigmatized. UMB violates the premise of its own land grant and its own “vision statement.” The oppression and depression present on our campus is a mirror image of the larger dominantly, conservative and pro-corporate political positioning. Laissez-faire economics defines our monetary system. Feigning a need for a balanced budget and reduced taxes, Massachusetts elected officials have hoarded over a billion dollars in a rainy day fund; and cut educational monetary resources. Layoffs and early retirements are commonplace. Support staff are overwhelmed and underpaid. Unprecedented in forty years, union state contracts have not been honored. To date, students have paid more than staff and faculty to park their cars, as their cost is not pre-taxed dollars. However, administration has increased the parking fees of the staff and faculty as of December 2002. The earlier savings of pretax dollars no longer exist. The university has taken on an increased indebtedness for capital investment. Liberatory and transformative learning, which supports democracy, is under attack. Accessibility of public higher education is being eradicated.

This fall 2002, the negative impacts have been particularly unbearable. UMB students, faculty and staff feel demoralized. The University of Massachusetts at Boston land grant was construed on the premise of accessibility to Boston urban residents. Accessibility is defined as the ability of Boston residents to attend postsecondary education opportunities. This has been the crux of the UMB urban mission. The College of Public and Community Service (CPCS), a college at UMB, was charged in 1973 to develop programming targeted specifically at urban adult learners. Maintenance of accessibility requires good business management, which is not evident today. The rainy day fund was not utilized to fund UMB as a buffer against the downturn of the business cycle. For those students who filed for standard students loans to ease their financial burden found them absorbed by the escalating student fees. These fees support the university as a whole. The Board of Trustees increased student fees by $350 since last spring. Over 5 million dollars will be collected for FY ’03 from UMB students as the increase reflects in a total of a 65 % increase since the Fall 2001. The additional 5 million dollar reflects the monies from UMB’s full time enrollment of 9000 times the $650 increase. More than $6 million was recognized with early retirements. The $6 million was the 80% of the early retirements that may have not been returned to the state coffers. These two monetary increases total approximately $12 million for the fiscal year 2003. Calculations for additional university revenue from part-time student enrollment, additional fees collected last spring, the staff layoffs, 20% recognized by the university and the savings from an increase of non-benefited UMB employees are not included in this overview. The budget cuts to UMB for the Fiscal Year2003 today amount to less than twelve million dollars. Capital investment takes precedent over our UMB campus community needs, past expectations, and future goals.

Primarily, non-benefited employees are work study students who are replacing classified staff. These students earn $6.25 an hour to start. There were numerous complaints by work-study students that their first paycheck arrived eight weeks into the semester. This is five weeks beyond the legal limit set by the state itself. Please note all university funding accrues interest just like a savings account. Interest accrued for two months while students had to struggle through the first half of the semester without funds. No one thought to notify the students of their options for emergency funding. UMB contributes only 25% to the work-study employee fund for the salaries after the federal government allocation. That’s a little over a $1.50 an hour. Why was the $4 million not previously allocated to finish installing the People Soft accounting system before the semester began? Loans for the campus center and the dorms exceed $150 million. Legislature awarded an additional $10 million towards the campus center. However, the same legislature reneged on the $10 million dollar back pay to the UMB staff and faculty.

Due to the laissez-faire economic environment, UMB students and adult learners are being forced to choose between work and studies. Others enrolled only part-time. Many did not return. Pre-enrollment was lower, due to the unstable financial situations. Classes were cut due to the lowered pre-enrollment rate. Our political machine is tapping into the pool of federal monies to pay their bills. Union busting through the delays in contracts and fear of layoffs oppress the UMB staff and faculty. Increased student fees and lack of student services deepen the overall depression on campus. No thought has been given to the impact of budgetary mismanagement has on UMB students and adult learners’ present educational investment and future goals. The UMB student or adult learner is no longer the customer but a consumer. Consumers don’t require affordability or accessibility. Comparable to private industry, the product, a public higher education, is designed and advertised for the select few to attain. Hello to the “Harvard of the Harbor.” Gone the “Harvard of the Poor.”

By Cathi MurrayUMB Budget Cuts Group