UMass Labor Center Saved from Shutdown

POSTED BY MARTIN KICH

In a September post to this blog [https://academeblog.org/2016/09/05/saving-the-labor-center-at-umass-amherst/], I reported on the efforts to keep the UMass Labor Center from being closed.

Earlier this month, the Amherst Bulletin included a story by Jack Suntrup titled “UMass Labor Center Saved from Shutdown and New Scholarships to Center Available”:

“After months of upheaval concerning the future of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Labor Center, stakeholders announced Tuesday plans to restore teaching assistant positions and revamp efforts to boost enrollment.

“In a news release, university leaders said they would aim to “revitalize” the Labor Center, which got its start after a 1964 commencement address by then­ AFL­CIO President George Meany. The center is a nationally recognized program that trains students in matters such as workers’ rights and collective bargaining.

“’The steps we are announcing today reaffirm our commitment to this eminent program,’ Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in the statement.

“Tom Juravich, interim Labor Center director, said the university will restore up to six teaching assistant positions that had before been in jeopardy. In addition, the university will support up to 12 graduate student externships, which will now be called internships.

“To fund the positions, the university is committing to cover stipends for the teaching assistants, Juravich said. The university said it would provide stipends for three of these positions at 20 hours per week, for a total of $109,785. The Labor Center may, at its option, instead provide up to six such positions at 10 hours per week, according to the statement.

Labor unions will be tasked with covering stipends for the internships, at $23,071 per internship.

“For all of those positions, the university has committed to covering the students’ tuition, Juravich said.

“Despite the student staffing commitments, Labor Center leaders didn’t get everything they wanted out of conversations with administration, they wrote in a letter to alumni and supporters.

“’We had requested a new faculty position, which the Chancellor did not support,’ the letter reads. ‘We were also not able to secure any additional staff support for the Labor Center. In the short term, the Labor Center will use its own reserve funds to hire the part-time faculty necessary to cover required courses and fill out staff needs.’

“But, bottom line, the Labor Center Committee said: ‘We got a commitment from the university about the importance of the Labor Center to the mission of the university, and significant support for our graduate students to build a new foundation for the Labor Center.’ . . .

“With the student staffing commitments, UMass is aiming to double undergraduate enrollment within three years. The center currently has about 100 students.

“The university also wants to have 12 new, full­time students enrolled in the residential master’s program per year, according to the release.

“In September, Eve Weinbaum, former Labor Center director, expressed dissatisfaction at what she said was an insistence by administrators that the labor studies master’s degree program be a ‘revenue generator’ ­­ and that, because it wasn’t, its existence was harder to justify to university leadership. Administrators disagreed with the assessment. . . .

“’The UMass Amherst Labor Center is announcing an exciting new scholarship program to start in January in our limited residency Master’s degree program in Labor Studies (ULA). Designed for union officers, staff and activists, participants attend 5 ten-day sessions held in January and July and receive their Master’s degree in three years. Check out our website at: https://www.umass.edu/lrrc/  for more information on the program.

“’Based in part on the contributions of two alums and their unions, we are delighted to announce a new scholarship program that will cover the tuition costs ($2,628) for up to ten (10) new students to start in the ULA session this January 8­18, 2017. Students would only need to cover their travel and a meal/facility charge.’”

 

Suntrup’s complete article is available at: http://www.amherstbulletin.com/UMass­Amherst­announces­plan­to­revitalize­ its­Labor­Center­6735231.

 

 

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