Pressure is mounting on administrators in our public higher education system to rescind their plans to cut staff and programs. The Legislature’s recent budget resolution will stabilize funding for public higher education through October and likely beyond. This move, coupled with the likelihood of greater federal assistance for higher education, warrant an about-face on the devastating plans unfolding on our campuses.
More than 700 of the MTA’s higher education members participated in a virtual emergency hearing on Aug. 3 that was attended by a dozen state legislators who listened to the concerns of students, staff and faculty about the negative impact of the cuts that campuses have made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These members are rejecting the false narrative that there is a budget crisis that requires massive cuts.
While the pandemic has brought economic uncertainty along with its dire health and safety impacts, the response from UMass President Marty Meehan, Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago and many campus presidents and chancellors has been woefully misguided. With their rush to embrace austerity, statewide and campus leaders have slashed jobs as well as academic and support programs and have undermined the ability to maintain health and safety standards. We are pleased that some college presidents and chancellors have responded well to the advocacy by our members and their locals and have rescinded cuts in student programs and employee layoffs.
Given the state’s commitment to maintain funding at the current level through at least October and coming actions by Congress, the MTA is demanding that layoffs and furloughs at public colleges and universities be rescinded and that health and safety plans proceed with greater input from staff, faculty and students.