By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service | Posted Aug 3, 2020 at 12:42 PM | Updated Aug 3, 2020 at 12:43 PM
Labor leaders and employees of Massachusetts public colleges and universities are launching a campaign critical of ongoing position and program cuts and the planning process for altering higher education operations this fall.
With the higher education industry across the country facing significant shortfalls, managers of the UMass system, state universities and community colleges have trimmed budgets significantly.
A new coalition led by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which represents more than 18,000 higher education employees, launched a website and plans to air web and TV ads slamming administrators for putting “revenue above human life.”
“Through these cuts, the public higher education administrators in Massachusetts are creating not just a potential public health crisis, but also a crisis of equity,” MTA President Merrie Najimy said in a press release. “Using the pandemic as an excuse to dismantle programs and to cut thousands of higher ed staff at the universities and colleges is proportionately serve low-income students and students of color is a disturbing approach, one that needs to be reversed and rebuked.”
The coalition argued that higher education officials should do more to push for additional federal funding and should use system reserves to stave off job losses. They also called for more dedicated health and safety measures such as mandatory face coverings and free testing and for the full restoration of jobs and program that were cut.
Last month, the UMass board of trustees approved a $3.3 billion fiscal 2021 budget that freezes tuition but also calls for cutting more than 500 workers and furloughing thousands more to close a $264 million budget gap.
“UMass President Marty Meehan, Board of Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago and other public higher education executives are failing to do their jobs of securing funding to allow for a safe and successful college semester for students and educators,” said recently laid-off UMass Lowell employee Darcie Boyer in the campaign’s press release.
Higher education officials have sought to limit new student costs in the face of a pandemic that has upended the basics of going to college and undercut state tax collections and campus revenues that form the underpinnings of college budgets.