Testimonials

The Faculty Staff Union is collecting testimonials on the impact of the budget and NTT cuts, which you can read below. Whether you received a non-reappointment notice, you are student whose instructor was was let go, or you are a community member concerned about the direction of UMass Boston and public higher education in the state, we want to hear from you. Let us know how the cuts are impacting you (all testimonials will be confidential unless you indicate otherwise):

'The administration's announcement that UMB has a deficit of $23 million and its decision to put 400 NTTs (including me) in a category of “contingency” strikes me as budgetary legerdemain.  Perhaps if the hands move swiftly enough, we won’t be able to figure out where to look?  But those of us in the union have keen enough eyesight to see clearly that UMB’s administrators are pretending to balance the budget by bullying two of  its most vulnerable and hardest working groups: non-tenured faculty and students.

Minute-to-minute hiring practices aren’t acceptable. In addition to being disrespectful, they shortchange students and faculty, alike.  If the university wants classes taught in the fall, if it expects unpaid professors without contracts to order books, create syllabi, and build Blackboard websites now, it needs to guarantee employment now.  

NTTs are not casual, unskilled workers.  We hold PhDs and work hard during and between semesters to give students our very best, which they absolutely deserve.  Just like tenured and tenure-track professors, we write letters of recommendation, advise students on course selection, and liaise with deans and support staff to ensure that students have access to services they need to succeed.  We and our students deserve to be given assurances that administrators and colleagues recognize and appreciate the roles we fill at the university.

Without the labor of NTTs, who teach 60% of courses at UMB, the university cannot function.  Once upon a time, it would have been unthinkable that universities and colleges in this country would routinely have NTTs teaching more than half their classes.  Given that this is the new normal, the least administrators can do is stop indulging in magical thinking that it can balance unwieldy budgets by targeting NTTs and raising student fees.  Let’s agree that smoke and mirrors aren’t acceptable.  And let’s insist, together — NTTs and tenure-track/tenured, staff and students — that we will not tolerate this kind of chicanery.'

Catherine Corman

American Studies

'I have been teaching at Umass Boston since 2012. I am also an alumna of the UMB MFA creative writing program, where I was trained to teach writing.  I come to this work with the real love of writing and our students. I've taught many places, but Umass Boston is my favorite place to work. The students are wonderful and dedicated. Many of them have overcome so many obstacles to make it to my class, I see strength in them that I don't see always in the average person.

 I teach students who are on the verge of graduating from Umass Boston, but for one reason or another are on the margins of our university community. They are juniors and seniors who have not yet passed the Writing Proficiency requirement. They come to my class vulnerable, angry and scared.  They come to my class for many reasons: sometimes they are transfer students who never really understood the Writing Proficiency requirement. Sometimes they are students with disabilities or serious writing challenges who never got the support that they needed in high school or their other educational experiences to build excellent writing skills.  Sometimes English isn't their first language.  Sometimes they are just students that are stressed out to the max: they are working part or full-time jobs, they're raising children, they are battling health issues, they're taking care of family members. They are low income, or first in their family to attend college, or just trying to graduate from college and they didn't have the time or mental energy to prepare properly for a writing test.

Over the years that I have taught the students, I have developed so much empathy and admiration for them. I'm constantly revising and improving my class to meet their varied needs. The summer I hope to design a partially online version of the class that will allow them more individual focus and support. I spend hours outside of class with my students: we meet, we talk about writing, we talk about their lives, we talk about stress management and balance.  I try to help them connect with tutors and other university support services.  I thrill with their achievements and I try to build them back up again after their failures.  I see a lot of students move from a place of no confidence and fear to a place of confidence and success. It is the most wonderful part of my job.

One thing that's hard about my job is the precarious nature of my own employment.  Even after teaching at the school for four years, I'm still considered "probationary," and as each semester ends there's no guarantee that I'll be hired to teach the following one. I hate having to tell students that I'm only on campus some days because I'm working at another job.  I'm trying currently to further my education at Umass by studying in the Instructional Design Graduate Program to learn cutting-edge, online teaching tools.  I have a lot of my life and my career as a teacher tied up in UMass Boston.

To hear that my contract is been cut and I have no idea if I'll have a job in the fall is pretty devastating.  This job pays my mortgage, and provides healthcare to me and my spouse. I want to offer support and stability to my students, but that's difficult if the University can't offer support and stability to me as an employee.  In the best case scenario, I'll "get rehired" and scramble to prepare my class for the fall. In the worst-case scenario, I won't be able to come back to the place that I've called my professional home for many years. I try to do the best that I can for my students, but as the adage goes, my working conditions are the students learning conditions.  If I don't have an office, we might have to meet at a public table in the cafeteria. If I am constantly unsure about whether I'll have a job next semester, my students get a teacher who is distracted by a job search instead of one who is honing my teaching skills in conferences or  the teaching and learning center.  I think my students deserve better than this. In fact,  I think my students deserve the absolute best that the university can offer them.'

Abigail  Machson-Carter 

English 

'I am indeed very upset with what is happening.The alleged budget crisis is surely a lot of the administration's making, as unneeded new construction continues even as there are mass firings,none of administrators. This is a tool of intimidation to scare those remaining or rehired into mindless obedience and subservience,as well as a way of jettisoning older people while skirting age-discrimination ,so they can hire less benefitted younger people at lower cost. I am indeed very upset with what is happening.The alleged budget crisis is surely a lot of the administration's making, as unneeded new construction continues even as there are mass firings,none of administrators. This is a tool of intimidation to scare those remaining or rehired into mindless obedience and subservience,as well as a way of jettisoning older people while skirting age-discrimination ,so they can hire less benefitted younger people at lower cost.'

'Massachusetts is rapidly joining such states as Louisiana. Wisconsin. and Florida in a race to the bottom for public education.  Charlie Baker and James Peyser may be Republicans, but they must remember this is MASSACHUSETTS, not MISSISSIPPI.  Your voters will remember your actions.'

'I have been working at UMB for seven years. This layoff came as a complete shock to me. I don't see how our program can run successfully without the long time, part time faculty. I hope we will be hired back and can continue to teach our students in classes small enough to give them the attention they need.'

'I find it absolutely disrespectful that after eight plus semesters of teaching for UMass Boston that we, the non-tenured Lectures were less than an afterthought to the Trustees & Administration. Were we not good enough to be afforded a handwritten note terminating our services, mind you on a Friday afternoon beginning a weekend where we honor those that have served?? Am I only worthy of a photocopied letter? I find that to be an extremely classless way to handle such a sensitive matter, considering UMass compares itself to some of the best University's in the region.

I'm very, very saddened that my relationship with the University had to end on such a sour note. I have enjoyed many semesters enlightening my students & have guided many into careers in the various genres. My sadness is more for them than myself; my knowledge can & will be used at other institutions in the future I'm sure. But for my colleagues who may not be as fortunate as I, my thoughts and prayers are with you that you will find suitable employment opportunities. UMass has discarded some of the most dedicated teachers who didn't do this for the money but for the love of sharing our vast knowledge with those who needed & wanted it; our students.'

'I received one of these letters and it's been devastating.  I am devoted to the students and had been loyal to UMB so this came as a complete shock.  I hope the union can find a way to avoid this tragedy.'

'Besides shock and sadness, my first inclination after the administration’s non-reappointment announcement was to hang my head, retreat and try to process the news alone. After all, my penchant for solitude, for thinking and writing and spending large amounts of time alone, had done me well in academia. As I walked out of the room, however, I came upon a colleague and fellow FSU member whose consternation was visible on her face. “We are going to fight this,” she said. As a senior NTT lecturer, her job was safe from the cuts, but she was already thinking of ways to mobilize the union to help those of us whose jobs were on the line. As I talked with her and others more that day and in following weeks, I realized that I was far from alone—that I was surrounded by remarkable colleagues whose sense of justice and solidarity surpass their own self-interest. Their example is what inspired me to join in the union fight and what brings me to share my story.

This is not to say that I am not as of this instant fearful and perhaps even paranoid that I am further putting my job at risk for sharing today. I have heard so many stories about how the precariousness of adjunct working conditions makes it difficult to organize and speak out, but am heartened by the strength and efforts of my union.

I began at UMass Boston by teaching first-year seminars, which I have taught virtually every semester since then. The purpose of these courses, as I’m sure many of you know, is to help entering students develop crucial critical reading and writing capabilities, prepare them for upper level courses, and to help increase the University’s retention rate. I have always seen my syllabus for and approach to this class as a work in progress that evolves and shifts to better serve my students—many of whom are first-generation or nontraditional college students who also have to balance full-time jobs with their studies.

I am not a naturally gifted teacher, and have been tested and frustrated too many times to count, but I have learned over the course of multiple semesters to become more open and receptive to students and their diverse needs. Since the seminars are capped at 25, I have come to know every student individually, and this kind of individualized learning environment is, I believe, crucial to the success of our first-year students. And yet, even with 25 students, I still sometimes find it difficult to reach everyone and get every student to engage in class activities; thus the prospect that this class might be made even larger come fall is highly discouraging.

I was scheduled this fall to teach two first-year seminars and was planning on working on improving my syllabi and pedagogy yet again this summer. But after the non-reappointment notices, I worry constantly not only about my own job, but also what will happen to the first-year seminar, which was designed to give students the capabilities and resources to transition to and succeed in university life. And if mine and others’ non-reappointments do become a reality this coming fall, I fear for all students whose quality of education will be compromised and for UMass Boston as it continues to lose sight of the dedicated teaching and student-centered learning that used to form the core of its noble mission.'

'Without the UMass faculty's personal commitment to learning and growth, I would not have achieved the academic and professional excellence I now leverage in end-of-life care for underserved populations. The trend toward inaccessibility for the very students that geographically surround Umass began before I was a student there and must end now. We desperately need those students, their perspectives and drive, to succeed. Not just for their personal development, but for the elevation they bring to their communities and all of us.'

'The salary of individuals at UMass Boston are made available to the public by the Massachusetts Comptroller’s Office. Here are some salaries of workers in the UMass system: In 2015, the Chancellor of UMass Medical made $928,725 Mark Klemper, a medical researcher or “speaker” in the IDEAS UMass Boston made almost $603,000 Brendan O’Leary Exec Vice Chancellor of “Innovation and Bus Devel” made $434,000 Chancellor Motley made close to $400,000 and is nowhere near the top of the list of highest earners The Head Coach of men’s ice hockey made $335,262 The Head Coach of football made $466,000 Derek Kellogg Head Basketball Coach made… $1,075,000 in 2015 having gone 14-18 in the 2015-2016 season. According to Wikipedia “Kellogg is the highest-paid state employee in Massachusetts.” Most of these individuals deserve well-paying jobs and work incredibly hard. However, there is a fundamental problem with a system that values the work of administration and coaches (who attract students to their sub-par teams) more than teachers, more than students who need public schools to be affordable to the public—a public who, unlike assistant coach David Sollazzo, did not make over $113,000 in 2015; unlike Vice Chancellor of Admin and Finance James Sheehan, did not make over $307,000. Furthermore, quickly glancing at 2013 and 2014 earnings reports (which are also publically accessible), the individuals earning the highest wages are not the ones suffering the cuts. They earn five or six percent more each year—tens of thousands of dollars. How many students who desperately need financial aid would benefit if conscientious individuals in positions of authority within the UMass system reassessed their own earnings? How many professors who shape future generations of biologists, nurses, philosophers, teachers, and entrepreneurs could get the raise they wildly deserve if the top earners in the UMass system agreed to minor cuts in their own prodigious earnings? Freeze raises and bonuses to the top 100 earners before raising tuition, before cutting services (to your paying clients, the students), and before lowering salaries (of your hardworking professors, full-time, adjunct and otherwise). If you do this and the UMass coffers are still running dry, at least you can take financial action against students and professors without looking like hypocrites. Make the mission statement “We are proud to provide an excellent and accessible university education” more than rhetoric—make it an affordable reality. I know these issues are complicated and I know I understand little. But I have worked as a lecturer, a tutor, and a TA at UMass Boston. I went there as an undergraduate and a graduate. This behavior is not worthy of the affection I hold for the institution that has been my home for six years.'

'I came back to school at UMass Boston in 2012, in the midst of my divorce, with a baby who was only several weeks old. The only real job I’d ever held onto, the only time I’d ever had a regular boss and an office, was as a prostitute. My child’s father was demanding full custody in court, and the reversal of a restraining order I’d been granted to keep him away from my family. Life was bleak and hard, and I was a traumatized, undersocialized individual, someone not ideal for the university.

The truth is, UMass Boston was not my first choice. It was my last option. And I was not any instructor’s first choice, but a difficult student who took up a lot of their time. If they were able to deal with me at all, it was because I never once walked into a classroom with more than twenty or so people in it, often had classes of a dozen students or fewer.

This is what it takes to transform the lives of students like me. This is the only way for UMass Boston to keep carrying out its urban mission. And it is, I suspect, totally incompatible with becoming the sort of school that is a first choice, an attractive destination for fresh-faced teenagers from untroubled suburbs. This whole first choice thing might be lucrative, but I feel it as a betrayal.

The many fine NTT instructors at UMass Boston were willing to work with me, even when I was prickly and disrespectful, even when there was no guarantee I’d ever get it together. Even when I needed to leave class early to get my kid, or when I had to show up late because I’d been in a courtroom fighting for her safety. I worry that future instructors, people who have been fired and hired back and made as insecure as possible, people with some huge number of students to worry over, will be too frazzled, will not be able to work with anybody whose needs are so complicated. I worry that the opportunities UMass Boston offered me will soon cease to exist.

And that’s a shame, because my life right now is wonderful; the life UMass Boston made possible for me is wonderful. I graduated with a major in English, minors in professional communication and creative writing. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA and dual honors theses in English and creative writing. I graduated with years of experience copyediting for newspapers, having interned at DigBoston and worked for the school paper. I graduated, and I moved to Columbus, Ohio, where I am a Distinguished University Fellow at The Ohio State University. I’m attending the MFA there, one of the more competitive in the country, and I feel so lucky. My daughter is happy and healthy, and so am I.

I have begun to rack up awards for my short stories from magazines like Glimmer Train, New Letters, and Mid-American Review. An agent from New York recently wrote to ask if I might want to show him a novel sometime, and an article was written about me for UMass Boston’s alumni magazine. I appeared on the front page of the university’s website, which made me prouder than I can say. From here, the future looks brighter than ever.

All I want is for other people to have the chance I did, to turn their lives around, and I don’t think they’ll be able to do it at a school where overwhelmed adjuncts struggle with overlarge classes. In fact, I’d say administrators’ salaries are the thing least necessary to this process. Perhaps some of those should be cut instead.' 

'It’s around February 2015, and the snow is higher than I am tall. Rather than wait for a bus that might never show up, I order an Uber, and get picked up by a driver who’s maybe five or ten years older than me. We start talking, and I mention that I’m a student at UMB. “I actually teach there,” he tells me. “I’m an adjunct professor in the [redacted] department.” His department is not one I’ve taken courses in, but it’s not far off from one of my majors. We talk the rest of the ride from Quincy Center to Fields Corner. We’re both interested in criminal justice reform; he tells me he used to teach prison inmates before he moved to the East Coast.

My friend and I are both dedicated philosophy majors. Two weeks ago, we start asking around about courses and professors. We’re worried about the future of our department because we’re short on majors and a lot of our courses are under-enrolled for the summer and fall. Instead of finding answers about philosophy, we discover something much bigger: rumors from all sides (faculty, students, union members) that due to budget concerns, a significant number of non-tenure-track professors aren’t getting hired back in the fall. The official announcement is made the day after classes end, though the numbers remain undisclosed. “This is a university, not a corporation!” my friend says, upset. “They shouldn’t be doing this!”

“You’re wrong,” I tell her. “This is a business.” But we’re both right. UMB is a business, but the product isn’t diplomas, or education, or knowledge. It’s people, and unfortunately for the administration, people have rights.

Yesterday I’m at the convocation ceremony, waiting for my friend to get an award from our department. Before the awards are presented the chancellor speaks. I’ve never heard him speak before. I’m pretty good at detecting bullshit, and my impression of Motley is that he’s charismatic, but full of it. His speech appeals to graduates and to parents. Not to me. I’m a wild card. I’m not supposed to be there. I’m an unfinished product. He talks about how great our school is, and how it’s going to keep getting greater. He talks about how graduates can “keep giving back” after they leave. Thinking about the NTT layoffs, I’m angry. I want to yell something at him from the audience, but people are there with their families, and I’m not that kind of activist, or maybe I’m just not that brave.      

I transferred to UMB two years ago. My old school was a party school, and I didn’t fit in there. Here, I feel like I belong. I love the view of the harbor from the campus center. I love the community I’m a part of and the diversity of that community. By now, I can’t walk down the hallway between classes without running into someone I know well enough to stop and say hi. The past couple of weeks, since they announced the layoffs, the school has felt different, and it’s not just because finals are over. There’s tension in the air. I’ve overheard conversations in the hallway, in the cafeteria, on the shuttle; conversations that sound like “What am I going to do now? Where am I going to go?” These cutbacks also make me fear for my own future career, because I want to teach someday. Is that going to be me having that conversation ten years from now? Is this all for nothing?

In Chancellor Motley’s speech yesterday, he said that he wants UMB to keep getting better. UMB has a lot of problems, but we’re not going to solve them by getting rid of the people who make this school great. And how dare he stand there and get paid while the rest of us suffer? How dare he ask his finished products to keep giving back?

He talks for a solid fifteen minutes before ending by congratulating the graduates. I clap for them, but not for him. UMB wasn’t #MyFirstChoice; it probably wasn’t anyone’s. Most of us came here because it was, financially or logistically, either our only option or our best option out of very few. If the school does better then maybe it will be someone’s first choice, but much more importantly, it needs to do better for the people who don’t have a choice. Smaller class sizes are an important part of doing it right. If I had taken lecture hall courses where I was one in a hundred and the professors didn’t know my name, I wouldn’t have been able to stay in school. Having the opportunity to talk one-on-one with professors and get to know them has been an essential part of my education.

Despite its flaws, I love UMB and I’m proud to go here. The fact that the school is cutting corners in this way makes me feel betrayed, because I work hard, my classmates work hard, my professors work hard, and we deserve the best-- not only the best new buildings and roads and water fountains, but the best in academics. This school wouldn’t be what it is without the faculty, including NTTs. I haven’t had a bad professor since I’ve been here. Some of my favorite professors here have been NTT, and in some cases it’s definitely not because they’re not brilliant researchers. The administration knows as well as I do that a lot of their students have to work their way through school, but plenty of professors also work two jobs, like my Uber driver last year; some are tens of thousands of dollars in debt from student loans, the way most of my classmates will be. These people are not only valuable but crucial to our educational development. The cutbacks are harmful to the people who are losing jobs and to the students who are losing opportunities, and they need to stop.'