9/14/17 UMB rally protestors
UMass Boston prof criticizes move to balance budget by cancelling courses
The following speech was given at a Sept. 14 rally at UMass Boston in support of the release of a new report by the Coalition to Save UMB entitled “Crumbling Public Foundations: Privatization and the UMass Boston Financial Crisis.” The full report can be found at tiny.cc/umbreport.
Thanks to all of you for being here today.
My name is Joe Ramsey. I teach English and American Studies here at UMass Boston. I am a newly elected member of the Executive Committee of our Faculty Staff Union (MTA), and a proud member of the Coalition to Save UMB.
Like other UMB faculty, I love this university, and I am committed to its public urban mission. I am here to serve my students, to help them to develop as readers and writers, and to flourish as human beings, in relationship to the broader community.
Each day, my UMB students inspire me, with their commitment, their ideas, and with the stories they have to tell.
Here’s one I heard just this past Tuesday:
Each weekend, in order to pursue her college education, my student Fotini works 28 hours at Dunkin’ Donuts, on top of her full-time course-load. A child of Greek immigrants, Fotini works back-to-back doubles, from 9 am to 11 pm, so that—unlike so many students at UMB who must rush off to work right after class—she can be fully focused on her studies during the week at UMB. (On top of this, she is still taking out thousands of dollars in student debt.)
What is this dream to which Fotini is sacrificing her weekends? To become a public school teacher. Not just any teacher, she tells me. She wants to be THAT teacher. That teacher who inspires her students with passion and creativity—making the classroom relevant to their lives. The teacher who makes a real difference: the one who stays late after class to discuss ideas, the one who keeps students from dropping out. In fact, Fotini has already stepped forward as a kind of teaching assistant in our class, volunteering to help those classmates who don’t have printers at home to print their papers before class.
I know all this about Fotini, after day three of our semester, because—unlike so many other first-year classes—our class-size is small. With 18 students, gathered face-to-face around the seminar table, I am able to give these young scholars the attention they deserve. Every day is a project of critical thinking; we work as a team, we read and write and discuss—we know each other’s names, and are learning each other’s stories.
Pack a few more students into my class, however, and this sort of intimate class discussion, this sort of daily writing and personalized response, becomes more and more difficult. As it is we are packed in against the walls of our seminar room.
And yet the plan now at UMB appears to be to jam more and more students into classes, and to cancel classes that are declared “under-enrolled.” Our UMB administration has stated their aim to address the budget situation in part by significantly raising the student to faculty ratio. 86 sections were cut from this Fall’s schedule; dozens of my colleagues had classes cancelled. In some cases, courses students need to graduate are not being offered. We are now worried that we will be seeing more of this in the days to come—unless there is a change of course.
Several terrific students I know personally decided not to come back to UMB this year because courses weren’t offered at times that would accommodate their demanding schedules.
As we UMB professors know: our students work, they commute, they take care of families, they have obligations—all of which makes them AMAZING students. They have life experience. They have known struggle. They have roots in the local community and links to the world.
We need to stand against “solving” this budget situation either by cramming more students into our classrooms or by raising tuition, forcing our students to log work hours that leave no time for study. Our UMB students need and deserve better.
Let’s come together and fight to fully fund UMB, to make sure that students like Fotini won’t be denied the small class experience in which their dreams can bloom. For as Fotini’s story reminds us, when we fund UMB, we are funding the common future of our Commonwealth.
Joe Ramsey teaches English and American Studies at UMass Boston, serves on the Executive Committee of the Faculty Staff Union (FSU/MTA), and is a member of the Coalition to Save UMB.