As representatives of unionized faculty, staff, and graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Boston, we were dismayed to read Vice Chancellor Ellen O’Connor’s comments in the article “UMass Boston budget gap protested.” O’Connor blamed the school’s budget deficit on 4 percent increases to employee salaries. This is a faulty claim. For example, unionized staff received pay increases of less than 4 percent, and even if they were higher across the board, that would not have accounted for the $18.8 million spike in costs.
Instead, two factors are driving the university’s budget shortfall. The first, as O’Connor previously reported in a budget presentation in May, is debt related to multiple construction projects and building depreciation. Second, Massachusetts has steadily cut funding to our public colleges and universities, forcing our institutions to raise student tuition, thereby increasing student debt and undermining our mission of providing affordable, quality higher education.
The employees of UMass Boston are responsible for the world-class education Chancellor J. Keith Motley extolled during his recent convocation speech. We invite him and O’Connor to join us in calling on Governor Baker and the Legislature to increase our public investment in public education.