Students from Amherst College, UMass Amherst, and members of area communities gathered on the Amherst Town Common on November 17 to support wealth equity and public education in the state. Activists from the Five College chapters of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM) and the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) Chapters organized the rally in support of the Endowment Tax (H. 2824) ,legislation sponsored by State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D. Middlesex and Worcester) and State Representative Natalie Higgins (D. Leominster) that would mandate that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts tax, at a rate of 2.5%, the endowments of all private colleges and universities in the state with endowments over $1 billion, to support the funding of pubic education, K-12 as well as higher education in Massachusetts. That would include Amherst College, Smith College and Mt. Holyoke College.
Armed with a megaphone and signs reading, “Tax Amherst College’s Endowment, Fund Public Education,” organizers led chants of “What do we want? Debt Free Future!”
Speakers highlighted the positive impact this tax could have on our public education system, and criticized the endowments of schools like Amherst College and Harvard for sitting on wealth and investing in private interests rather than investing in the good of their students, or the public good.
“This legislation would redistribute the wealth,” said PHENOM Executive Director Henry Morgan, “for providing education access to each and every one of us in Massachusetts.” A speaker from Amherst College YDSA, William Prince, spoke to why Amherst College students should support this effort. He said, “It’s about the future of Massachusetts residents. It’s not always about me. It’s sometimes about the people we can help by giving up just 2.5% of something that… is not really ours. It’s just a massive pot of wealth we’re holding on to.”