Q: There are always conversations here (GSS) about funding for graduate students, policies around how long we get funding, how much, and so on. And usually this has something to do with state allocation, which is never enough of overall operating expenses. So what’s been your experience with how the B.O.T. takes a position on submitting a budget to the state and trying to get funding? Is the current B.O.T., and the president, on board with trying to increase those allocations?
A: Well there’s no question that the president and the B.O.T. and the current chair are pushing 100% every day to try to increase that state appropriation. But you know, it’s a state and a federal issue. A couple years back we got the federal stimulus, and that was great, but it’s gone now. And everyone’s hurting, and the university’s pushing to get that state money, and I think we’re very effective at campaigning for that and pushing and fighting for as much as we do get, but the university is also very much active in ensuring that our funding sources are diversified. So we have money from the state, but one of the focuses that every campus is pushing now is getting alumni contributions up, That’s something where we have not traditionally done very well, but there’s a tremendous opportunity there, and that’s one of the reasons why the president is also going out on bus tours, and thinking about how can we re-brand the University of Massachusetts to bring everyone on board and bring our visibility up. One of the other things we’re looking at is, with institutions that do a lot of research, like Amherst, like Worcester, any of the campuses where we have patents coming through, we’re focusing on things like streamlining our offices, lets make sure that our licensing revenues go up, because we’re taking care of the ideas that we create here. So there are a lot of different avenues that the board is paying attention to. So state funding is key, and we really appreciate everything the state can do, but we’re not holding our breath on that.
Q: As the one graduate student trustee, what do you see as the most important graduate student interest to give voice to, based on your own experience, or research, or what you’ve heard form other graduate students?
A: Well, one of the things that got me interested in pursuing a problem at the B.O.T. level was to try to find out what was already being done in terms of university efforts towards gender equity. Because what we’ve seen, and what we read about is that women are still making, what is it, 72 cents on the dollar earned by men, and that’s across all the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). You look at women who are in positions of management or leadership, and the rates are down there. And if you push it out to academics, tenure track positions, department heads, the statistics are appalling for the promotion and advancement of women. So if we’re training women, 50% of our classes are women, what are we doing to promote them professionally? So one of the things I wanted to pursue a student trusteeship for was to get in touch with campus leadership, to use the position as a way to start this conversation, and to find out where is this being worked on, and what’s being done? What I’ve found is that there’s a substantial amount of work being done on this. I mean there are whole offices dedicated to this issue. Our Vice Chancellor for faculty affairs recently received the Alfred P. Sloan award, and part of this is to develop a whole new office for faculty talent management to help promote things like female faculty, or female post-docs interested in these paths. So, I would say that a lot is being done. Since joining the board I’ve found that this particular issue is more appropriately worked on at the campus level. We’re doing a lot with Worcester on this issue, I’m still interested in finding out how the other campuses are doing it, because I think that UMass is unquestionably a leader in many areas on the national scale in terms of our research power, but I think that we stand to be a national leader on social and cultural issues like these also. One of the things I may try to do is try to get the president’s ear and ask if there’s some way we can work this in with the branding plan, that UMass cares about equity and support and promotion for women. One of the other things I was looking at, you know, it’s not just women, but women and men or anyone else who wants to have kids, that’s a significant time commitment. That’s also something where there’s a cultural problem where, it’s one thing to get maternity leave and equal pay for women to take time off from their career track to take care of kids, but what about men who want to do the same. Again, that’s something that I’m interested in, but one of the issues that we come back to is, that’s a very narrow view that I have. We all have different concerns. If I come hot off the blocks from Worcester saying this is the graduate student problem, that may be great for me and my campus, but that’s not fair to everybody else from UMass in a graduate program. So it’s not about what issue I think is most important, it’s what issues we think –all of us together—are most important. So that’s one of the reasons I responded to your desire to talk, because I think one of the most important things going forward is establishing a concrete and longitudinal way we can communicate across the five campuses, as graduate students, about what concerns us, and make sure we’re all on the same page with what’s important. And, that we can present that cohesively and coherently to the board so that they also understand.
Q: So, going back to the budget issue for a moment. With all of the budget questions, in the past we’ve sometimes heard the Provost or Chancellor say that, well, part of the problem is we have all these collective bargaining agreements that we’re obligated to. So I’m wondering if this ever comes up at the B.O.T. meetings?
A: At hasn’t come up in the meetings. I’m sure those expenditures are built into the budgets that the chancellors bring to us. But we didn’t discuss that at all. The board, in regards to our recent short term planning meeting, where the chancellors discussed their budget plans, it’s not about, oh, what’s this line item about, a million dollars for signage, or how much are you giving this entity or this group. It never comes down to that level. It’s much more about keeping the role of the B.O.T. in keeping the focus of the campuses on the mission of the state; so how are we serving the state. So you have this budget, this plan, you have this deferred maintenance, you want to build these buildings, well what’s the most important one, we can’t build them all at once. So it’s about making sure that each campus and the university as a whole is making the most efficient business decisions, in terms of building its infrastructure, and instituting services that benefit the state the most without simply saying we need to cut all this to save money, but finding the best way to serve the needs of the state while remaining financially responsible.
Q: So there hasn’t been a vocal opposition to the various unions on campus. Because in other state university contexts, and states in general, they are attacking public sector unions, like with what happened in Wisconsin a few years ago. That’s not something you’ve noticed entering the dialogue?
A: Certainly not. Not in my time on the board. It hasn’t come up.