Letter: We have the power to put students first

By Opinion & Editorial Staff

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When we come to the University of Massachusetts, we gain more than just knowledge. The University provides us with a classroom to learn in, a library to study in and a room and natural environment to live in. Here, we have access to a state-of-the-art recreation center, a fairly reliable bus system and the top campus dining in the country.

Yet, though the University provides us all of these amenities, they do not come without significant costs. From purchasing textbooks and a meal plan to paying for printing, laundry and housing, these small costs add to the thousands of dollars of tuition payments.

We seem to regard UMass as a privileged university that we are so lucky to attend. We seem to forget that UMass is a public institution that is accountable to us all. We need to realize that our education is, well, ours.

Everyone accepts that education is valuable. Besides the solely economic value, there is value in acquiring new knowledge and engaging in critical thinking. While we are here, everything around us impacts the education we are receiving and the dignity we feel.

Imagine if UMass was hollowed out: No longer would it be responsible for supplying physical structures and services. All classrooms would be the result of a negotiation between a private leaser and a professor. Students would have to figure out living arrangements, where to purchase food and transportation without the University’s support. It would certainly make living here more difficult and time-consuming than the system we currently have. That is why these structures and services which UMass provides are so vital, and that is why we must come to the realization that they belong to us.

By accepting the notion that we all have a claim to these institutional arrangements, we can gain influence over them in ways that we likely never imagined. We can directly have a say on not just how much money comes out of our wallets, but also the quality of these services. Having trouble with the Wi-Fi (as many of us did after we returned from Thanksgiving break last semester)? Then we should demand that the University upgrades its spotty internet service, so that we can enjoy watching Netflix or getting assignments done without the frustration of Eduroam failing.

As the renowned Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda expressed, “All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.” Thus, it is up to us to decide whether we are going to make the changes that we want with the power that is already ours. We must realize our collective potential and organize around it.

So how can we bring about this awareness? How can we promote change? On campus, the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy (CEPA) is organizing to put students first. The Affordable Higher Education Campaign within CEPA is focusing on decreasing many out-of-pocket fees and eliminating tuition.

CEPA meets every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in room 423A of the Student Union.

Jonathan Blum

UMass CEPA Affordable Higher Education Campaign