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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Unions Rally for Battle with Romney

Unions Rally for Battle with Romney

A campus meeting on Wednesday drew about 200 students, faculty and staff to discuss Governor Mitt Romney’s 2004 budget proposal regarding UMass Boston. The focus of the meeting was to announce and gain support for a demonstration in late April to protest the governor’s budget proposal.

Several students spoke at the meeting, including members of the Advocacy Resource for Modern Survival (ARMS) Center, saying “we have a lot of students in a lot of pain right now.”

Elizabeth Mock voiced concern that UMB would be combined with community colleges and that UMass President William Bulger has been pushed into a corner.

The government first attacks people with the least political power, said Robert Johnson, representing the graduate employees organization. He added that the governor gave pay raises to his own employees, despite the state’s budget crisis.

Tension rose at the meeting as student Patrick Ayers spoke about a meeting he attended earlier that day at the Statehouse. He also made a brief comment linking the state budget crisis to the war in Iraq as organizers were reaching for the microphone and nearly grabbing it from him.

Harsh words were expressed about Romney and Bain Capital at the beginning of the meeting when some background was given. The people from Bain Capital know nothing about what we do here at UMB, said Tom Goodkind, who chaired the meeting. “They are a bunch of suburban actuaries.”

Effort was made at the meeting to get the support of UMB professors, seeking to get them to participate in the walkout and devote a class period to having someone come talk about the demonstration.

The demonstration and campus meeting were planned and organized by unions at UMB, which are facing layoffs and contract violations due to Governor Romney’s planned budget cuts and restructuring of the five campus UMass system.

The restructuring is part of the governor’s 2004 budget plan. Regarding his budget recommendations, the governor says, “The patchwork quilt of higher education campuses is transformed into a more powerful regionalized system.” This is part of the sweeping changes that he wants to bring to what he calls “the inefficient, wasteful structure” of Massachusetts government now in place. Romney also lists education and economic growth as his highest priorities, although it appears the state’s higher education will sustain major funding cuts.

Many critics of the reorganization claim the Romney administration is looking at the bottom line and that the governor doesn’t understand the UMass system. It is also clear that the Amherst campus will be favored and most likely spared at least some of the budget cuts, which leaves UMB in a potentially precarious position.

The meeting’s chair brought up the point that media coverage has focused on the battle of wills between President Bulger and Governor Romney. It’s not all about Bulger and his office; it’s about public higher education, said Goodkind. Bulger’s office is scheduled for demise under the proposed plan. The Boston Globe reports Romney plans to exclude Bulger from an upcoming meeting with UMass chancellors to discuss the reorganization plan, although at least some chancellors have expressed opposition to this.

The Boston Globe also reported that four business leaders have shown support for Bulger his office and the UMass system in an open letter to Romney and Bulger.

The plan for the demonstration was described as a walkout, followed by a march to the JFK subway station via Morrissey Boulevard that would pass by the front of The Boston Globe and Channel 56 buildings. From there demonstrators would take the train to the Statehouse to join a protest with students, faculty, and staff from other UMass and state college campuses.