By Ferd Wulkan, PHENOM Organizing Director
Excerpted from the 2015 Spring Newsletter
Each March’s Advocacy Day at the State House features high energy, but this year the vibrancy of the event was mirrored in the fluttering of flags in the Great Hall. The two-story high space displays flags from every one of the state’s 351 cities and towns. The historic backdrop set the tone for a day of civic engagement and political advocacy.
The 200 students, staff and faculty from across the state took a day off from their extremely busy lives to let their legislators know that public higher education is critical for both individual success and the state’s economic future and we need the Legislature to appropriate enough money for next year to freeze fees, provide more financial aid, and address deferred maintenance needs on our campuses.
In addition to a passionate speaking event, featuring current and former students as well as community activists, two actions were added to the day: one planned, and another impromptu.
Twenty students and staff from Springfield Technical Community College came to the State House with a letter written to Governor Baker, signed by over 300 members of the STCC community. This letter eloquently expressed why investing in public higher education makes sense for the Commonwealth. After visiting their legislators, they presented their letters to Education Secretary James Peyser and engaged in a vigorous discussion with him.
Soon afterwards, word came that Governor Baker was holding a press conference on his proposed budget. A group of about 50 spontaneously went to find the Governor and the press. A dozen people made it into the crowded briefing room to be a visible presence, holding up signs, while others picketed outside. For a brief time they chanted “No cuts. No fees. Education should be free.”
PHENOM’s work to develop coalitions to send a unified message did not stop after March 4th. The echoes of that message are reverberating, and PHENOM continues to mobilize advocates for the remainder of this year’s budget process and for the long haul.