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Students set up camp and occupy UMass Boston

Posted by Patrick Rosso  January 23, 2012 04:04 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)


Students rallied in the UMass Boston campus center Monday. Protesting cuts to public education, students plan to camp at the center Monday night.


Borrowing a page from the nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement, about 20 students on Monday occupied the campus center at University of Massachusetts Boston to protest cuts in public education spending and hikes in tuition.

"Public universities were built for the 99-percent and we intend on maintaining that," said Amanda Achin, a 22-year-old student of political science at UMass Boston. "We need to end the wars, tax the rich and fund public education."

Setting up a few tents inside the campus center Monday, the group said they plan to camp there indefinitely.

Distributing fliers, students occupiers said they supported many of the broad ideas put forth by the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston movement, but said this occupation really focuses on education.

Last year the University of Massachusetts approved a 7.5-percent increase in student fees, raising the price for a semester at UMass Boston in spring 2012 to $6,613.50 for in-state students.

"There is a lot of frustration among students about where the school is going and about them not having a say in it," said Stasha Lampert, a 23-year-old student studying economics and political science

Many students walking by, watched with interest at what was happening in their campus center, which is usually filled with information booths and student activities, but not all agreed with the methods of those "occupying".

"I agree with the importance of keeping education open to the public but I disagree with the demonstrations and camping out in the place where people are studying," said Joe Watson, a 26-year-old Pre-med student. "I know that some of us agree with the base message but there is a time and place and it shouldn't be in a student's learning environment."

Others like Ashley Inza, an 18-year-old prospective student of the university, said the message is important.

"No, I don't think tuition should be increased at all," said Inza. "I like how the movement is trying to change things for the better."

Even staff members and faculty from the university stopped by to observe what was happening.

"I tend to be sympathetic to their cause," said Neil Roseburg, a 53-year-old staff member at the school. "It would be nice [free tuition] but there are so many fiscal constraints on the state that it would be hard for them to do that."

Even with fiscal constraints many of those demonstrating, said something needs to be done to drive down costs and make the university more open to people from all income levels.

"At the end of the day I'm out here for the guy from Dorchester who could of 10 or 20 years ago afforded to go here but is now being priced out," said Rob Birmingham, a 23-year-old student of economics and political science. "Free education is a long term fight. Immediately I'd like to see a freeze on pay hikes and tuition increases."

Members of the university's administration were not present at the informal rally but in a statement the university said, "UMass Boston respects our students' rights to free speech and interest in advocating for change. We look forward to working with them in a cooperative manner."

Those occupying the campus center Monday hope to stay the night, but could face a push back from the university. The group plans to hold a rally starting at 8:00 p.m. to occupy the campus center which according to the university's website closes at 11:00 p.m.

"I think working-class people understand the struggle we are here to fight," said Achin. "It's important that we create a space were we can come together collectively."

Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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