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Remarks From FSU President Marlene Kim To BOT- 12/18/19

Good morning. I am Marlene Kim, president of the Faculty Staff Union at UMass Boston.

The UMass Boston community is troubled that the trustees and President Meehan have done nothing to address our concerns around the establishment of UMass Amherst’s academic center in Newton that is vying for many of the same students and instructors that UMass Boston is also trying to attract and retain.

Only a week ago, we started circulating a petition expressing our concerns and have so far collected over 300 signatures. In speaking with community members and faculty, staff and students at UMass Boston, many are shocked to learn that the governance of the UMass system allows for one campus to undermine another. Along with signatures on the petition, you will find comments addressing the many problems with UMass Amherst’s plans for the former Mount Ida campus and your unwillingness to be leaders committed to the well-being of every campus in the UMass system. Here are some of them:

I'm shocked that there is a plan that will harm the UMass Boston, which is so important to the area and to the system. As a long time faculty member of private universities in Boston, I know that UMass Boston is unique and also under supported by the system.

It is unfortunately now clear that our worries about competing offerings were not the slightest misplaced and that the promises to the UMass Boston community and the elected officials at the (State House) hearing were empty.

This sends a message to UMass Boston about a lack of respect and support for this campus's efforts to strengthen and expand its programs.

As a UMass Amherst alumna, I’m embarrassed by how the President’s office and Amherst campus handled the acquisition of Mt. Ida. I live in the greater Boston area now, and I have been lucky to work with many UMass Boston faculty and know many alums. UMass Boston deserves support, not more weak promises and neglect. Each UMass campus is unique and plays a vital role not just in the state but in their community. We can do better by all of them.

Any claims that having more UMass academic options in the greater Boston area helps more people have access to our public university system ignores the fact that many of the students for whom UMass Boston was designed for are harmed by this process.

As you know, UMass Boston was established to offer a first-rate, public research university experience in Boston and to support non-traditional students.

I am certain that for some students, it will not matter whether they take a particular course at UMass Boston or at UMass Amherst’s satellite campus 11 miles from UMass Boston. But for many students at UMass Boston, they are there specifically for the way our programs are designed. We meet their needs as working students, as first-generation college students, as students with significant financial needs and as students committed to using their university experience to improve their community – in Boston.

Drawing away students who might otherwise attend UMass Boston as well as recruiting instructors who teach at UMass Boston – on top of the stretch of budget cuts our campus has endured--  will inevitably lead to shrinking services and opportunities for the very students for whom UMass Boston was established.

Without greater transparency in decisions affecting our university system or the ability for more authentic voices to be heard in the process of making these decisions, these unfortunate consequences will continue to occur.

We must work more collaboratively so every campus in the system thrives, and the University of Massachusetts as a whole provides equitable opportunities for all of the students we aim to serve.

This is the petition that was signed: 

The faculty, staff and students at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and the university’s supporters are demanding that the UMass Board of Trustees and UMass President Marty Meehan halt the use of UMass Amherst’s satellite campus in Newton for academic courses or programs that are already available at the university system’s current Boston campus.

When UMass Amherst acquired the former Mount Ida College property, its purpose was ostensibly to house students participating in academic internships available in the greater Boston area. But since taking over the Newton campus, UMass Amherst has launched a menu of academic programs and courses meant to attract new students — from Boston.

This undermining of UMass Boston and its ability to fulfill its urban mission must not be allowed. President Meehan and the trustees have an obligation to operate the University of Massachusetts as a truly integrated system rather than encouraging campuses to operate as separate competitive entities.

The undersigned demand that:

•    The UMass trustees establish a more transparent process for approving academic programs or courses offered at the Newton campus.

•    The UMass trustees operate the university as a truly coordinated system and not as a collective of individual competitive campuses.

•    UMass Boston be given a greater voice in plans for the Newton campus.

        •  Competing programs and courses at the Newton campus be immediately halted.