PHENOM Congratulates Graduating 2018 Seniors

Join us for our Annual Meeting on June 10th too!

Photo: A sign reads “Fight Poverty, Not the Poor” at a Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign action on May 14th. (Zac Bears/PHENOM)

Hey PHENOMenal community!

Thanks for joining us for our second PHENOM weekly update! We got a ton of great feedback on last week’s update (which you can read here), so I hope that you’ll keep reading and keep building our movement for a #DebtFreeFuture on the road to free public higher education for all!

Partnering with JALSA for our Tzedek Salon on Student Debt

JALSA (The Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action) is partnering with PHENOM for a discussion on the student debt crisis at their May Tzedek Salon next Wednesday, May 23rd from 7PM-9PM at Lir on Boylston Street in Boston!

We will be joined by Zac Bears, Executive Director of PHENOM, and State Rep. Natalie Higgins, co-author of S.2380, an Act establishing a student loan bill of rights, and former Executive Director of PHENOM.

JALSA’s Tzedek Salons bring young people, in their 20’s and 30’s, together with activists and policy experts at local bars to explore the issues facing our society.

We will learn about the history of the student debt crisis, the corporatization and financialization of higher education, and the specific impacts on public higher education in Massachusetts. Participants will discuss how student debt has impacted our lives, and how we can organize to build a #DebtFreeFuture for students and families.

Tzedek Salons are free of charge. All are welcome. Space is wheelchair accessible and light refreshments will be served. For all other accessibility questions, please contact

Learn more and RSVP here:

Congratulations to PHENOM’s Graduating Seniors!

We just had a short blurb in last week’s update about our graduating seniors, so we decided to tell you more about all of the wonderful work they’ve done for PHENOM and our movement for education justice while attending their colleges and universities.

Stephanie Houten graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a BFA in Studio for Interrelated Media. Stephanie served as the MassArt Student Government President and was a PHENOM Student Organizer for three years.

Kenny Fairneny graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst with a B.A. in Sociology. Kenny got their start in organizing as an intern at Jobs with Justice and served as a PHENOM Student Organizer for one year.

Jennifer Ford graduated from Bridgewater State University with a dual degree in Political Science-Psychology with a minor in Civic Education and Community Leadership. She is a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha national honor society and served as a PHENOM Student Intern for one semester and a PHENOM Student Organizer for one semester.

Delia Fuentes graduated with an Associate’s Degree in General Studies from Springfield Technical Community College. She served as the Vice Chair of Student Ambassadors for the campus and was a PHENOM Student Organizer for one year.

We still plan to keep them involved through our alumni organizing work to reach people who are paying back student debt!

Further Reading and What’s Up Next Week

And that’s just some of what we’ve been doing over the past week.

We joined the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign for their first action during their 40 Days of Action on the steps of the State House on Monday. You can see some of our photos from the action here.

PHENOM Director Zac Bears was quoted in a Boston Herald story on what colleges in Massachusetts are doing to provide high-quality educations to adult students. “There are a lot of adult students, people going back to school after a long break. They are becoming the new traditional students,” said Zac Bears of PHENOM. “We need to change the whole paradigm of who we see as a college student.” Read more.

A recent study showed that the average American worker has less vacation time than medieval peasants living under feudalism. “Life for the medieval peasant was certainly no picnic. But despite his reputation as a miserable wretch, you might envy him one thing: his vacations. Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off.” Read more.

Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees. The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked. Read more.

We still have quite a bit going on next week, and we have two big events in June!

  • Next week, we have our monthly Board Call on Monday, we’re going to the Bristol Community College Service-Learning Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, joining together for our MEJA Coalition Meeting and the aforementioned Tzedek Salon on Student Debt on Wednesday, and holding another internal strategy day to end the week on Friday.
  • Join us on Sunday, June 10th for our 2018 PHENOM Annual Meeting at UMass Amherst or via Zoom videoconference. The event is free and open, and we’ll be electing our Board for the next year, discussing our budget and working on our #DebtFreeFuture campaign. Click here to RSVP.
  • We also have the MEJA Statewide Convening on June 23rd to discuss our statewide campaigns to #FundOurSchools and provide a #DebtFreeFuture. Join us!