UMass speaks out against budget cuts

April 19, 2010

AMHERST, Mass.--Some 30 people turned out for a speak-out on April 7 organized by March 4th Coalition, a group that formed at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) in the lead-up to the national Day of Action against cuts to public education.

Students spoke out against the budget cuts in Massachusetts and for the need to build a grassroots movement to oppose them. Passersby signed a petition.

On March 4, 300 UMass-Amherst students delivered a list of demands to administrators, including an end to rising fees, no attacks on cultural centers and faculty, and a call for teaching assistants and staff to receive fair wages that keep up with inflation.

Students also oppose plans to build another police station on campus for $12.5 million. In a time when we keep hearing from those at the top that "there is no money," activists need to point out that some things get funded when they're what the administration wants. Our fees shouldn't skyrocket to help build a police station.

Similarly, the hours of health services on campus have been slashed due to cuts. If a student needs medical attention after 5 p.m., they're in for a long night because they'll have to travel to another town.

In response to their demands on March 4, activists received a condescending e-mail from the vice chancellor that said, "It is clear that we share a common goal of improving educational excellence, access and student success. Our ability to achieve these outcomes is enhanced by the members of this campus community (students, staff/administrators and faculty) working together. We pledge to do just that."

But it's obvious that students and administrators don't "share a common goal." If the administration were on our side, the university president wouldn't have given himself a $72,800 raise, a 15.4 percent increase, while the salaries of staff, faculty and teaching assistants are frozen, and more students are unable to return to school for lack of funds.

This response should make us more determined to keep organizing, because it's up to us to force the administration to make decision that benefit staff and students.

The UMass budget for the new fiscal year was set to be announced on April 6, the day before our speak-out. But the chancellor sent out a school-wide e-mail informing students, faculty and staff that the process was taking longer than expected and they should "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst."

Now the budget won't be released until the summer--when the campus is all but empty. While we shouldn't consider this a victory, it should be pointed out that the administration would prefer to reveal the new budget when the student body isn't present and can't respond.

They are scared of how we can disrupt campus business as usual. This should show activists that what we do matters, and we're going to need to do a lot more.

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