UMass Amherst, A Major Valley Employer, Is Run In Secret

The University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst, with 26,000 students, more than 900 professors, and thousands of other workers, is one of the biggest employers in the Valley. Workers at UMass belong to several unions. Since UMass workers work for the state, it's illegal for them to go on strike. So they lobby the governor, state legislature, and the UMass board of trustees for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. The trustees are appointed by the governor.

On August 4, Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley said the UMass trustees had committed “wide ranging and serious” violations of the state’s Open Meeting Law. In January, the trustees held an “unlawful executive session,” she said. Coakley told the Springfield Republican newspaper that she would not fine UMass, even though she could.

Amherst is by far the biggest UMass campus. The other UMass campuses are in the Boston area. But the trustees rarely meet in Amherst. When they do, the meetings are usually held during the summer, when most students are away. During the school year, UMass Amherst workers and student activists must travel to Boston if they want to attend a meeting of the trustees.

Valley residents have protested decisions by the UMass trustees to boost tuition rather than ask the state to raise taxes on the rich. Most UMass students are from working class families. In recent years, UMass tuition and fees have gone up far faster than the rate of inflation. These activists have organized a group, the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM):

Activists have blasted the multi-million dollar contracts that UMass Amherst has signed to do research for the U.S. Army and corporations like Monsanto.

The professors at UMass belong to the NEA union


I'm very pleased that Martha

I'm very pleased that Martha Coakley shined a light on practices that have been going on for years. The Secretary of Education participated in all of those meetings. Perhaps he should have known that they were violating open meeting law.

Max Page
Professor of Architecture and History
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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