Fund public higher education so it can serve the Commonwealth: The Commonwealth must provide a substantial increase in year-to-year operating budgets, funds to address long deferred maintenance of buildings, and a means to ensure stable state funding for public higher education.
Make higher education affordable: All residents of the Commonwealth should be able to afford public higher education, and all costs associated with higher education – from tuition and fees to housing charges and textbook costs – should be made affordable for all.
Make higher education accessible to all: The Commonwealth should actively provide clear pathways, appropriate supports, and greater resources to ensure that under-represented youth and adult learners have access to, succeed in, and graduate from our public institutions of higher education.
Hire more teachers, researchers, and staff: Our public colleges and universities must hire sufficient numbers of full-time research and teaching faculty, for whom salaries and benefits should be competitive nationally, and must improve the conditions under which part time and non-tenure-track faculty work, resulting in better service for our students, our communities and our economy. As we rebuild the faculty we must also hire the staff needed to support both students and faculty.
Honor and expand democratic institutions of governance in public higher education: Colleges and universities should respect the autonomy of campus governance bodies, particularly student governments and student organizations, and increase democracy on campus and throughout public higher education.
A rising tide lifts all boats. PHENOM formed in response to ineffective and divided lobbying by different constituencies. Students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni can all be effective spokespeople for our campuses, but not if they are pushing different issues. If state universities are advocating just for themselves, they don’t succeed. The same is true for community colleges and UMass. We understand that each sector of the system will do better only to the extent that the entire system does better.
PHENOM’s five guiding principles are tightly interrelated. While we may focus more on one or two in a given campaign, we understand that they impact each other. So if we don’t get enough funding, student fees go up. If staff and faculty feel powerless, they won’t fight for funding. If barriers to access remain unchallenged, we won’t have truly democratic campuses. If we don’t have enough staff and faculty, we can’t effectively support students and break down the barriers.
Only by mobilizing a large grassroots movement will we be able to get politicians to change the decades-long pattern of underfunding, The numbers of people who attend, work at, or graduated from public colleges, together with their immediate families, is an enormous potential political force. PHENOM is committed to awakening this sleeping giant. Of course, we publicize our positions and advocate with politicians, but we understand that only by mobilizing and taking action do we make change.
While it is important to fight for incremental improvements each year, we need more dramatic and fundamental changes. PHENOM finds ways to project a long-term vision in its daily work. We work hard to build and maintain coalitions, but we also don’t shy away from issues that may not be popular in the legislature: in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants; significant progressive increases in taxes; free community college as a step toward free higher education. A dramatic vision and concrete victories are both needed to energize people and make change.
Our coalition doesn’t just include everyone on our campuses. It also includes potential students, parents, and members of the community who recognize the importance of public higher education to its constituents and to the state’s economy. We must make alliances with community groups and extend our work into high schools.