Students, faculty and staff members and other advocates will gather at the State House on March 21 to call on legislators to provide sufficient funding for the state’s public colleges and universities.
Zac Bears, executive director of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, emphasized that no prior lobbying experience is required to take part in the event, which PHENOM is organizing. Rather, Public Higher EducationAdvocacy Day participants should be prepared to tell their own stories about the underfunding of public colleges and universities and the need for better pay and working conditions for faculty and staff.
Advocates will also be briefed on legislation filed in January that would provide more than $500 million per year in additional funding for public higher education. The legislation — which is backed by the MTA, PHENOM and other members of the Fund Our Future coalition — addresses the skyrocketing tuition and fees being paid by students and working families, the problems faced by faculty and staff, and the privatization of services on campuses.
Advocacy day activists will gather at 10 a.m. in the Great Hall. The speaking program will begin at 10:45 a.m. Preparation for visits to legislators — complete with a mock legislative meeting — will begin half an hour later. Visits to legislators’ offices will follow. A lunch and wrapup session will begin at 1 p.m., and the event will conclude by about 2 p.m. MTA President Merrie Najimy urged as many active and retired members as possible to attend.
“The share of public higher education costs carried by students and their families has shifted dramatically since 2001,” Najimy said. “That has led to an ongoing crisis in which students graduate with huge amounts of debt — and sometimes they don’t graduate at all.
“The underfunding of public higher education has meant fewer full-time faculty and staff, exploited adjuncts and cuts to our support staff and programs,” she added. “We need a high-quality, debt-free public higher education system that serves students and working families, and we need it now.”