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UMass-Amherst students plan to strike

Recruitment of minorities, increased fees top grievances

Email|Print| Text size + By Peter Schworm
Globe Staff / November 12, 2007

Student government leaders are urging University of Massachusetts at Amherst students to skip classes Thursday and Friday to protest a range of grievances they say university administrators have consistently ignored.

The two-day student strike is intended to pressure administrators into heeding student complaints about increased student fees and aggressive police patrols of dormitories.

"This has been a long time coming," said Jeff Napolitano, president of the Graduate Student Senate. "These are chronic issues that are not being addressed. There really is not any dialogue between the people who run the school and the people who study here."

Graduate students who work as teaching assistants are planning to boycott their classes, he said. Graduate teaching assistants also have been holding rallies this fall, demanding a new contract with reduced fees and better health insurance coverage.

Student leaders are demanding that the university reduce student fees, which they said had risen sharply in recent years; increase efforts to recruit minority students; and reduce police patrols of dormitories.

Ed Blaguszewski, a UMass-Amherst spokesman, said administrators plan to meet tomorrow to discuss the situation.

"Administrators have just learned of this, and really haven't had a chance to sit down and discuss this in detail," he said. "We'll gather the details, and then we'll evaluate the situation."

He declined to comment on the students' concerns, whether administrators are worried about the level of discontent among students, or whether students who do not attend classes will be punished. The university has about 25,800 undergraduate and graduate students, about 18 percent of whom classify themselves as members of minority groups, according to university statistics.

Napolitano said many professors had signaled that they will not penalize students participating in the strike. He said he has not discussed the strike with administrators but that he is open to postponing it if there are signs of progress.

Students participating in the strike will be asked to rally at the student union to discuss issues and how to present their case to the administration. Napolitano said students are concerned the university is too aggressive in policing student dorms and not aggressive enough in courting minority students.

"We're trying to change the dynamic between students and administration," he said. "We're trying to give students input into how the school is run."

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