As negotiations move forward in the fight for fair parking fees at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Save UMB Coalition and PHENOM (Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts) have convened again in their third rally to reopen the conversation on fair parking fees. This one focused on multi-use passes.
Around 130 people grouped together at 1 p.m. on March 27 outside the Campus Center. As they banged big water jugs with drumsticks and blew orange whistles, the Save UMB Coalition stood up to start chants and give speeches. There was a strong police presence surrounding the plaza. Protesters stood with signs related to the debt and the effect of increased fees on students, faculty and staff, and there was also a large banner with a red crossed circle across “$15.” Meanwhile, the members of the SaveUMB Coalition and PHENOM played music in between the powerful speeches and chants.
Joe Ramsey, a faculty member in the English and American Studies Departments, started chants such as, “The urban mission is under attack; Get the garage debt off our backs!” and “Who’s university? Our university!” His speech resonated between shouts. “When we say our university, who do we mean? We mean students! We mean faculty! We mean staff! We mean alumni who want to come back for an event but can’t afford $15 to park! We mean neighbors of this institution who live here but may not be able to afford to come here anymore! We mean UMass Boston should be the university for the people of Boston!” Before marching towards the Quinn Administration building, they played a loop of Interim Chancellor Katherine Newman saying, “Nobody’s paying $15.”
When the marchers finally arrived outside Quinn at 1:33 p.m., they were greeted by two policemen at the doors. They were let in with the request for them to stay quiet while indoors; but the chants again came through the building as the protesters climbed the stairs. On the second floor, everyone gathered around while Anneta Argyres, chair of the Save UMB Coalition and president of the Professional Staff Union, and other leaders gave out parking stubs and red markers to write messages on. After everyone finished writing their messages, they put them all in a small black coffin with the words, “Buried in Parking Debt” written on it to lay outside Interim Chancellor Katherine Newman’s office door while the bargaining team went inside to discuss negotiations.
As the assembly climbed the stairs, they continued to chant and bang their drums. Although some police officers were already in the reception area, others followed the crowd from the elevators. During the occupation, the group kept on banging their jugs and holding high their signs. Sociology Ph.D. student Katsyris Rivera-Kientz was holding one of the drums and tapped it as the chants stayed. After requesting her to stop, one police officer ripped the drum and drumstick out of her hands. The Police Chief declined to comment on the situation.
The bargaining team then went in to discuss the parking fees. An email sent out to the supporters stated, “We were unsuccessful in getting a fair sliding scale, and we were unable to get Chancellor Newman’s administration to agree to a discounted multi-use pass for our students and staff who only park on campus 3 or fewer times a week.” Luckily, it isn’t all bad as “at the very beginning, back in March 2018, the administration came to the table with a proposal that all staff would pay $144/month at Bayside and $240/month everywhere else. Because of your activism, the bargaining team was able to reduce those rates to $112/month at Bayside and $122.22/month everywhere else.” The final verdict though was, “This final bargaining session made it very clear to us that there is no interest on the part of the administration to ensure that all members of the [UMass Boston] community have access to affordable, discounted parking. Indeed, it became crystal clear that Chancellor Newman’s administration is counting on many students and staff to pay $9 at Bayside and $15 everywhere else so they can make their revenue targets, despite this comment by the Interim Chancellor … [‘Nobody’s paying $15.’].”