PHENOMenal News- Fall 2014


Read the fall 2014 issue of the PHENOM newsletter on your screen, and then let us know if you would like a batch to distribute. We have also made it available in .pdf format here. It includes interesting material on the demand for free higher education, the recent elections in the Massachusetts Teachers Association, student organizing and more. Please write to us at  if you would like copies to use in your organizing.


In Montreal, Student Discuss Organizing Strategy

The success of the massive 2012 student strike in Quebec, which lasted more than 6 months, involved over 200,000 students, and brought down the provincial government, demonstrated that students were more than capable of a powerful mobilization to oppose attacks on education. But is Quebec an exception?

Free Higher Ed: No Longer a Pipe Dream

PHENOM fights for better state funding, lower student costs, and improved access to public higher education. Even when we make important gains – like the fee freeze – we are making small, incremental dents in an irrational system. That is why PHENOM simultaneously argues for much more dramatic changes, key among them being Free Higher Education. Often dismissed as pie in the sky, there are many signs that this is an idea whose time has come.

Chatting With MTA’s New President

On July 15, Barbara Madeloni took office as President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the 113,000-member union of educators in public schools in Massachusetts.  PHENOM Board member Max Page recently chatted with Barbara about some of her ideas.

Guest Column- Massachusetts Public Higher Education: Separate and Unequal?

By Ira Rubenzahl, President, Springfield Technical Community College

When we look back on terrible wrongs–slavery, unjust wars, periods of deep and pervasive inequality–we may wonder how individuals tolerated and ignored these realities. Within public higher education we have a number of issues that have been avoided and ignored, yet cry out for discussion and action.

UMASS Dartmouth Chapter Has Staying Power

By Colleen Avedikian, PHENOM Vice President

UMass Dartmouth’s PHENOM chapter has hosted weekly meetings and campus events since 2009. Its formula for success is close contact with student groups, support from the UMD Faculty Federation, and academic department recognition.

PHENOM Talks Higher Ed with Congressman McGovern

Initiated by PHENOM, a group of about a dozen students, staff and faculty met with Congressman McGovern. He shared a letter he wrote to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Signed by the 9 Massachusetts House members, it was very critical of President Obama’s proposal that colleges be rated according to the earnings of their graduates.

PHENOM Names Executive Director

By Kim Selwitz, PHENOM President

We have exciting news to share: after a rigorous, extensive search process we have hired our first ever Executive Director, Natalie Higgins.

State Budget: When a Deal Is Not a Deal

By Ken Haar (Westfield State), PHENOM Legislative Director

The fiscal 2015 budget process is over, and while there were many successes for public higher education, there was a good deal of disappointment as well.

Performance Funding: What’s the Problem?

PHENOM is very concerned about broad implementation of “performance funding” as the vehicle for advancing our public higher education system. We agree that demonstrating the value and effectiveness of what we do on our campuses is crucial, but we think this could be done with campus-centric implementations of outcomes assessment. Unfortunately, we see deeply-flawed notions of “performance funding” inserted in recent budgets having pernicious implications for our students and campuses.