Manning at the Parking Parade on May 9

Manning and other members of STOP protesting the raise in parking fees. Manning is on the right, wearing green sunglasses and holding a megaphone. 




Last spring, the University of Massachusetts Boston proposed an increase in its daily parking fees for July 2013 from $6 per day to $8, which will then increase to $10 a day in the summer of 2014. At a 100 percent commuter campus, these rates are already excessive for students who pay to go to class and employees who must pay to work at their jobs.

While negotiating the fee with campus unions in a collective bargaining process, the university made the unilateral decision this month to impose this fee increase on all non-unionized members of the UMass Boston community, specifically the largest non-union group on campus, the students. With no voice in the decision-making process, students are increasingly forced to foot the bill for UMass Boston’s expansion plans, including a 25-year Master Plan that seeks to transform our waterfront campus into a world-class research institution on par with Tufts University and Boston University. The problem is, UMass Boston isn’t Tufts or BU; it’s Boston’s only public university, and it largely serves Boston’s traditionally underserved communities: first-generation college students, low-income students, and non-traditional students looking to come back to school to finish their degrees.

The Boston Globe recently reported last week that the “elected student trustees from the University of Massachusetts system universities called on the Senate to approve a $478 million funding proposal from Governor Deval Patrick.” The elected trustees are looking for the Senate to make good on University of Massachusetts President Robert L. Caret’s promise to freeze fees for the coming academic year if the state will match 50 percent of UMass’ academic costs. This funding is desperately needed not only to keep UMass afloat, but to keep working-class UMass students from sinking deeper into debt.

After more than two decades of successive fee increases, UMass has already set a dangerous precedent for its working-class, middle-income, and low-income students. The public university is increasingly looking like a private one, with creeping costs to match. And fee increases don’t just come through tuition and education fees, but also through ancillary campus charges, like parking, that continue to eat away at the wallets of students and low-paid staff.

In a recent conversation with Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance, Ellen O’Connor, the students, faculty, and staff of the coalition Stand Together, Oppose Parking Fee Increases (STOP) raised their concerns about affordability and access to UMass Boston during a parking fee protest. One student was concerned that the university administration doesn’t care about those attending UMass Boston, which prompted Vice Chancellor O’Connor to react with shock, exclaiming, “I can’t believe you think we don’t care about students!”

Yet by subverting the union negotiating process and sneaking another fee onto the backs of students as they head out for the summer holiday, the administration of UMass Boston is proving that they really don’t care about students and are more concerned with their Master Plan aspirations.

As the trustees noted in their letter to the Massachusetts Senate, “a tuition and fee freeze would represent real progress and send a national message of support for public universities, a skilled future workforce, and a strong economy.” We support that message and would like to add to it: UMass Boston should freeze parking fees and all other campus fees as well.

For the good of the Commonwealth, keep UMass Boston affordable.



Email Mitch Manning.

(3) comments

In my opinion, there are certain very arrogant senior administrators at UMass Boston who are more interested in protecting their own individual reputations and that of the University, than they are in actually serving their students and those students' interests. They are only really looking out for themselves and for the institution that they are subject to, and are not really there to help or, even listen to, the students at all (much less the student veterans). It's shameful, actually.

This is definitely a difficult issue, and is one that will continue to polarize sides. But, I don't think that this is a cut and dry "problem." There are so few cut and dry problems. I don't think the administration is out to get us. That would be counterproductive. Having a happy and productive student body makes the university money and fuels success more than any new construction project. However, those projects are themselves inspiring emblems that allow students to be proud of the institution they are proud of. We're don't just belong to some stagnant entity churning out degrees (although it feels like it at times!). The university is a living, breathing thing and its lifeblood (as much as we may not like to admit this) is money. For the sake of sticking with the metaphor simply because metaphors entertain me (English major): if money is the lifeblood, the students are the heart. Neither has any use without the other. A school with no money cannot exist, nor can a school exist without a students.

Education will always cost something. Yes, it costs too much. But as the trustees are demonstrating through their concerted effort to enact the much ballyhooed and, indeed, promised tuition freeze, the problem is on a much grander scale that the typical "out of the wallet of..." or "on the backs of..." metaphor is going to illustrate. According to a Huffington Post (written based on another report by the labor department, or some such government thingy) report back in 2012, in the past 30 years, on average, higher education has gone up 1,120 percent.

That's preposterous. We should be outraged! We should be angry!

We are outraged! We are angry! But at whom? Certainly good comes from putting pressure on those people in our immediate vicinity--the administrators who, to some degree, control these petty, "out of the wallet..." level, costs that have a very real, very slow-deadly-poison-esque feel to them--like the slow steady corrosion in the underbelly of many of our campus' buildings, especially the current science building... not the new fancy schmancy one that cost us, if memory serves, in the realm of 150 million dollars.

But wait! We don't want a crummy science building! Do we? If they didn't build the ISC we could save some money on tuition. But we would probably die from asbestos poisoning while in physics lab. Then we'd write op-eds about how the university is short changing us because we have crummy buildings... so we want them to improve the weak parts of campus, so long as it doesn't cost us a dime.

The parking fee is certainly a jab in the stomach. Thank goodness I don't drive. Regardless, I think the constant bad mouthing of administrators (I've done it too, guilty) is misdirected anger at the larger problem embodied in the nearly 12-fold increase in average tuition costs. Which is an embodiment of an even bigger problem, which I have no authority to go into whatsoever. The misallocation of taxes and other moneys! By that big evil (but probably not) government (except, if recent news hasn't convinced you otherwise, that "government" is a term denoting thousands of individual thingys [technical term] composed of millions of individuals representing around 350 million other individuals... us). So, really, I'm to blame. It's all my fault! You should be pointing your finger at me! I can't do it, I'm typing.

If you've read this far, you have too much free time. Here's a rewarding conclusion for your patience with my excessive use of parantheticals (a proverbial carrot, if I may). It's complicated. The problem is multifarious. It is no one person's or even organizations (and they tell us to "blame big government!" we are big government!). Nor is the solution as easy as "cut tuition fees" or "increase parking fees" or "cut spending." If I was an economics major I might be able to offer something more salient. But I'll just say this. UMass Boston still costs less than or around 1/3 of most of the other schools in Boston, so let's give them some credit and work with them, instead of against them, to confront the larger issues, whatever they are.

I'm not proofreading this. It may has grammar erors.

Excellent article. It's time the state and UMass stopped picking UMB students' pockets for extravagant projects while denying the students the quality, affordable education they are seeking. These fee increases started way back in the late 80s when I was still a student and have skyrocketed since then. It is lunacy.

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