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The Point: Doings and Undoings


Greetings, Colleagues!

All of us in this business have, no doubt, patiently tried to explain to some relative or neighbor how we don’t, actually, have the summer off.  But I think many of us are acknowledging that this summer has brought additional burdens of labor—with higher stakes than usual.  There is a remarkable amount of thought and action being produced in and around UMass Boston this summer in response to the dual pandemics (and not-unrelated attacks on higher education). The synergy of BLM and COVID-19 have made it clear that we are—not to put to fine a point on things—in a struggle for the soul of the university.  As I write this, my particular corner of social media has been lit on fire by Scott Galloway’s alarmist and poorly researched claims that a huge number of colleges and universities are bound to fail in the coming years; check out where UMass Boston appears on the “Value vs. Vulnerability” chart halfway down the page.

Colleagues in literally every college at UMass Boston are acting as academic first responders in this time of crisis and the FSU leadership is taking seriously its responsibility to agitate, educate, and organize around concerns having to do with anti-racism and public health.  It is in this spirit that we have decided to frame this week’s Point around an editorial that union president Steve Striffler and I recently published in CommonWealth magazine which asks some very basic questions about the future of higher education.  It was first drafted over a month ago, in the wake of state police using our campus as a staging ground; questions surrounding campus police remain very much alive—as today’s editorial in the Boston Globe makes clear. Given how fast things have moved we would certainly change some phrasing and add some new concerns. But it does represent a snapshot of how we were thinking about our current landscape.  Here is our piece.  And here are the central questions we ask: “What would public universities such as UMass Boston look like if they were run – and funded – as transparent, community-based, expressions of the people they serve? What would it take to advance such a project?” 

Above all we want to make clear that we recognize that the demands of our moment have inspired a remarkable amount of thoughtful activism aimed at what The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond calls “undoing racism”—from the statement on Restorative Justice Urgencies developed by the Africana Studies Department, to the dynamic antiracism cypher organized by Professor Tara Parker and her colleagues and students in the Department of Leadership in Education, to the recent book discussion on antiracism organized by Professor Quito Swan and the Trotter Institute. We salute the multifarious efforts being made by our colleagues to raise consciousness and create sustainable change.  We feel challenged to do more and to do better.

This is your union: please keep us informed about the work you are doing and how we can support it at


Jeffrey Melnick

Graduate Program Director, American Studies Department

Communications Director, Faculty Staff Union Executive Committee

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