PHENOM Hits The Ground Running This Fall

Don’t forget to register to vote by October 17th!

PHENOM activists at our Fall 2018 Organizing Retreat. (Laura Barrett/PHENOM)

Hey PHENOMenal community!

Thanks for joining us for our first PHENOM update of the Fall 2018 semester! You can read our summer update about the State Budget for public higher education here. The entire PHENOM team has hit the ground running this semester, already holding protests, rallies and organizing meetings across the state.

If you want to join the fight against student debt, please fill out this new activist form or email Sydney at!

Student Debt Voters Getting Ready for November!

PHENOM activists, organizers and volunteers from across the state gathered for our Fall Organizing Retreat at the end of August. We talked about next steps on the road for the #DebtFreeFuture campaign, campus and community organizing, and how we will be taking our fight for free college and against student debt to the streets this fall!

Campus chapters held kickoff meetings on their campuses and started organizing to educate young people about how their vote can impact their student debt. Everyone who struggles in the face of the student debt crisis needs to be a “student debt voter” because elected officials from state reps to U.S. senators make choices that make the problem worse every day.

Here in Massachusetts, our governors and state lawmakers have been cutting funding for our public colleges for over 30 years, driving up tuition and fees and forcing students and families to take out even more debt just to get an education. Student organizers have been tabling on campus, wearing their debt to show people that we are in this together, and registering people to vote!

The voter registration deadline in Massachusetts is NEXT WEDNESDAY, October 17th, so make sure you’re registered before then. You can register online here, or get in touch with Sydney if you’re having any trouble. Elections for governor, senate, state rep and more are on the ballot on November 6th, and we’re going show up and make student debt a key issue!

Endowment Tax a Key Issue in Governor’s Race

We are heartened to see that gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez has endorsed a bold progressive plan for funding public colleges in Massachusetts by taxing massive private college endowments. For years, PHENOM has advocated for new funding to support our chronically ignored and underfunded public colleges. Taxing the nine largest private endowments that operate as hedge funds is a good start.

“While our public colleges have been suffering through decades of budget cuts and fee hikes, Harvard has built up an endowment of over $40 billion,” said Amy Blanchette, a Bristol Community College graduate and president of PHENOM. “It’s time for them to give back.”

We credit this bold policy vision to PHENOM’s years of work to change the conversation around higher education in Massachusetts. Public colleges and universities educate the vast majority of Massachusetts residents who choose to go to college, and working class students deserve a major investment in debt-free public higher education.

PHENOM Director Zac Bears said that large private college endowments essentially operate as tax-free hedge funds, and that taxing that money and putting it toward public infrastructure and education would benefit the state’s economy and its students. “It will be good for the economy by investing in students that need it the most, and not in elite private institutions.”

We talked about this issue in stories by WBUR, Daily Hampshire Gazette, WWLP, and the State House News Service, among others.

Chapters Take to the Streets with Rallies and Protests

Our student debt voter initiative isn’t the only thing our campuses have been up to so far! Students at MassArt spoke against an initiative to arm campus police at a Board of Trustees meeting, UMass Amherst students held a rally against tuition and fee increases, the Springfield Technical Community College chapter has a team of volunteers reaching out to students across campus, and PHENOM UMass Boston has been key to leading two major protest actions as part of the Save UMB Coalition!

We also co-sponsored the “Invest in Minds Not Missiles” forum, which brought together community organizations, students, professors and activists to talk about how we can demand more investment in public higher education from the federal and state government. Check out the full video here, and we also have great clips of Juan Blanco, Barbara Madeloni, Rep. Mike Connolly and more on our Twitter.

Teachers face high levels of student debt, but we’re partnering with teachers to talk about individual options to address student debt and to unite and fight for student debt cancellation and forgiveness at the state and federal level. The first event will be tomorrow at the BTU’s Leadership Conference! Thank you to our MEJA partners at the MTA, AFT Massachusetts, and the Boston Teachers Union for joining with PHENOM to make this happen.

Upcoming Events and Important Dates

– October 13th, 1PM: Student Debt Clinic at BTU Leadership Conference

Week of October 15th

– October 15th, 2PM: Save UMass Boston Speak-out at Community Meeting

– October 17th: Voter Registration Deadline in Massachusetts. Register here!

– October 18th, 12PM: UMass Boston Student Organizing Meeting

– October 19th: “Debt Is Scary” at Westfield State University

Week of October 22nd

– October 24th: Student Debt Clinic at UMass Lowell

– October 27th: PHENOM Meeting at Springfield Technical Community College

Week of October 29th

– October 29th through November 6th: Statewide Get-Out-The-Vote Actions!

– October 30th: “Til Debt Do Us Part” at UMass Lowell

– October 30th, 4:30PM: Protest the Privatizers at the Pioneer Institute

Week of November 5th

– October 29th through November 6th: Statewide Get-Out-The-Vote Actions!

– November 6th: Election Day!

If you have any questions about these events, please email Zac at!