In the midst of a $30 million dollar debt crisis, the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston community is now facing further attacks on programs, layoffs of staff, and tuition increases. The university authorities are seeking a 10% cut in both personnel and spending across all areas of the university. This is on top of layoffs of adjunct faculty and the slashing of departmental budgets by nearly 20%. It’s likely that the administration will again increase tuition as much as 3-5%.
The current fiscal crisis is a result of privatization, structural underfunding and corruption that has plagued UMass Boston. A recent article by The Boston Globe again brought to light the corruption and political favoritism that led to the now-crumbling infrastructure of the campus. In a well-documented case from the 1970s, a commission investigated the construction of UMass Boston and found that bribery, extortion, and shoddy craftsmanship was directly involved (4/27/2017). They also found that this corruption was a regular feature of business deals in the state with both Democrats and Republicans brokering deals for their own benefit.
Yet the students and staff of UMass Boston have to shoulder the debt for this blatant corruption! Any new construction projects on campus have taken a longer time to complete because of the faulty construction done initially. Not to mention that UMass Boston sits on the former Boston city dump. Asbestos and contaminated soil are costly to remove and dangerous. Which is why the vision of rebuilding UMass Boston has gone so over budget.
Although corruption has aided in the fiscal crisis, the severe underfunding of public higher education and privatization are mostly to blame. Compared to other states, Massachusetts ranks 48th in state spending on higher education. The situation is so bad that spending is down by nearly 50 percent over the past 15 years, when adjusted for inflation and enrollment.
To battle back against these cuts and threatened tuition hikes, students, staff, and unions at UMass Boston must organize and mobilize together. We shouldn’t pay for their corruption and greed. There also needs to be active solidarity from students and workers across the UMass system’s other campuses and from the broader working-class community which UMass serves.
A campaign for a millionaires tax is being initiated and will be on the state ballot in 2018. This is an opportunity to get money from those who can actually afford it by taxing the rich and big business. Approximately $1.5 billion would be raised by just increasing taxes by 4%. Incredibly, the very tops of the UMass administration oppose this tax, even though it would directly benefit the higher education system they work for! This shows we cannot rely on the administration to deal with the underfunding of our university. We also won’t allow them to cut one more person from staff or to have students pay another cent for the banks to make their money off of public education.