University of Massachusetts-Boston faculty members and union representatives on Wednesday urged a UMass Board of Trustees committee to help the Boston campus manage a budget deficit they said is threatening the campus’s urban mission.
Facing a roughly $26 million deficit, UMass-Boston Chancellor Keith Motley this month sent a letter to students and faculty announcing the “current need for substantial deficit reductions” and detailing how his administration would proceed, based on recommendations from the university’s Committee on Budgeting.
Motley directed his vice chancellors and deans to immediately begin making plans for an across-the-board 2.5 percent budget reduction, to implement a hiring freeze, and to require at least five furlough days from certain employees.
“This is killing us. We are cutting faculty, offering fewer courses, increasing student per faculty, cutting budgets needed to perform our work. We are abandoning our urban mission. The result? Enrollments are down,” Marlene Kim, a UMass-Boston economics professor and president of the Faculty Staff Union, told the UMass Board of Trustees’ Administration and Finance Committee. “We can’t educate students on this cost-cutting austerity program.”
Driving the deficit is a long-term facility and infrastructure construction project that’s ballooned over its initial $750 million budget, UMass officials said, and a slowdown in enrollment-connected revenue as enrollment growth lags amid the construction.
UMass-Boston faculty argued that since the campus infrastructure project is designed to put the Dorchester campus on track for greater success in the future, the entire five-campus UMass system should help Boston manage its budget through this turbulence.
“It’s necessary because our students — your students — deserve up-to-date learning and research facilities. We’re living with the piles of dirt and other stuff, horrible traffic and significantly longer commutes, and we know these conditions will result in lower enrollments in the short-run,” Anneta Argyres, vice president of the Professional Staff Union, said. “We think the system as a whole, though, should help to shoulder the financial costs of this rebuilding.”
Trustees, though, said it is up to the leaders at UMass-Boston to manage the budget that they designed and got approved by the Board of Trustees.
Motley said he is actively fundraising for the campus to help alleviate the deficit, will work with Meehan and the Board of Trustees to identify solutions and will talk with chancellors from other campuses to “help some of them remember that when they were running deficits, I was supporting their issues and so on and so forth.”