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June 15, 2016

Union members, faculty and students march with signs outside the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA on Wednesday, June 15. (Lydia Emmanouilidou/WGBH)

Dozens of union members, faculty and students gathered on the University of Massachusetts Medical School campus in Worcester on Wednesday, where the Board of Trustees held its biannual meeting.

Following the demonstration, several protesters joined the Board inside and voiced their frustration during the open comment section of the meeting.

The protest was assembled in response to a notice sent out to approximately 400 UMass Boston adjunct faculty members - a third of the university's faculty - warning them they may be laid off or reassigned before the Fall 2016 semester.

Faculty unions claim that these cuts will increase class sizes, decrease the quality of the education and may even prevent some students from graduating.

Joseph Brown, a political science professor at the Boston campus is among those who are worried that faculty cuts will threaten the very mission of the public university.

“Cutting a third of the faculty is a huge problem for the quality of education for students, the amount of attention we'll be able to give to them and the quality of instruction that individual professors who keep their jobs are going to be able to give to students as well,” he said during the protest.

A protester stands in the audience of the University of Massachusetts Board meeting on Wednesday, June 15. University officials have notified a third of the faculty that they may be laid-off in the Fall. (Lydia Emmanouilidou/WGBH)

President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Barbara Madeloni, emphasized during the meeting’s public comment period that she believes certain benefits of a university and robust faculty often do not translate into numbers and business efficiency models.

“It really struck me that how deeply the work that we do as educators is human work. It takes place in a human context and it’s about growing our communities,” she said.

According to university officials, some faculty may be hired back in the fall as they redesign the semester schedule.

Related: Amid State Funding Cuts, Public Research Universities Find Unlikely Advocate

As UMass Boston faculty await for the Board’s decision later this summer, their campus faces a $22 million deficit.

Perhaps then, protesters hope, the Board will be able to suggest a more reasonable approach to balance the budget.

“What we’re here asking you to do is to take up your moral responsibility as individuals who are committed to public higher education, and saying we’re going to fight for that,” said Madeloni. “We’re not going to say ‘geez, these are hard choices, let’s make a hard choice’ - that’s an easy choice.”

Shirley Wang is an intern for On Campus. 

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