Max Page, EDU candidate for MTA Vice President, is a professor of architecture at UMass Amherst, an MTA Board member and former MTA Executive Committee member. He was President of the Massachusetts Society of Professors (the 1700-member faculty and librarian union at UMass Amherst) from 2006-2008, and Vice Chair of the MTA Government Relations Committee. He is a founder of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM), which has fought for greater investment in public higher education for the past decade.
Write to Max at MaxforMTAVicePresident@gmail.com.
Here’s what I believe:
Public education is the foundation of democracy. It is the first, most fundamental commitment we make to each other – to educate the young to participate as full citizens and thinking and feeling adults in a democratic society.
Unions are the foundations of a just society, the only organizations capable of securjng the rights and voices of workers, that can gather the forces to challenge neoliberal policies, articulate a vision of the commons, and battle inequality. Without unions, our vision of a just society is impossible.
The MTA brings both of these beliefs together. We are the union of public school educators which means that we are the most important organization fighting on behalf of the building blocks of democratic life. This is the reason I am honored to run for Vice President of the MTA.
I live in the house I grew up in, in Amherst. I attended the Amherst Public Schools, the very schools my children are attending now. I am the son of two public school educators. My father, a refugee from Nazi Germany, managed (through the GI Bill) to end up as a Professor of English at UMass Amherst (I discussed this in my MTA ED Talk a few years ago: https://goo.gl/EbP5AR). My mother, born in Camden, New Jersey, was a drama teacher and then long-time principal of elementary schools in Rowe and South Hadley, before ending her career as a teacher educator at Mount Holyoke College. Public education is in my blood.
I have had a career as scholar and teacher of American history, with a focus on the history of cities, and the politics of historic preservation. I have written books on topics such as the real and imagined destruction of New York City in popular culture, and history and future of historic preservation. I run the historic preservation program at UMass Amherst. I am a classroom teacher, educating first-year as well as PhD students.
Through reading and teaching, but primarily through fellowship in the struggle with people in the my local, the MSP, in the MTA, and in PHENOM, I have come to understand the neoliberal forces that are designed to perpetuate and reinforce class and race inequality and also undermine the very notion of the commons, of which public schools are the greatest example.
From the year after I arrived at UMass in 2001, I became involved in my local, the Massachusetts Society of Professors (MSP). A group of us transformed the MSP in the way EDU has helped to transform the MTA. We focused on issues of importance to members, articulated a vision of the university we wanted, and fought, through contract battles, but also on the state level, to achieve that kind of university.
During that period (the early 2000s), the MTA hardly seemed worth our time – it was distant, bureaucratic, slow-moving, and generally conservative when it came to activism. It was in this period that I helped launch PHENOM, the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, with the goal of connecting faculty, students, staff, and parents across the 29-campus public higher education system to advocate for a progressive vision for public colleges and universities, and get beyond the circular firing squad that had characterized public higher education advocacy for so long. PHENOM is ten years old now and has had many victories – for example, securing significantly more funding for state universities, and helping to make free public higher education a mainstream proposal — on Beacon Hill and within the MTA.
On finishing my term as president of the MSP, I decided to get more involved in the MTA. There was no way that MSP, nor PHENOM, could be victorious without the aid and political force of the 110,000 members of the MTA.
Since around 2009, most of my activist energies have been directed through the MTA. I have been a member of the Executive Committee, a Board Member, the head of the Revenue Committee (which advanced a progressive tax coalition when Deval Patrick was Governor), and now Vice-Chair of the Government Relations Committee. I also helped found EDU, building on the efforts of the group of local presidents, and the Peace and Justice caucus before it. It has been an inspiring experience to go from writing a vision for the kind of union we wanted to build, to actually doing so, steadily achieving not only MTA electoral victories, but shifting the conversation and the actions of the union.
I am looking forward to keeping our union moving forward, so that not only do we successfully reject attacks on our members and their rights, but also achieve the public education system, and the Commonwealth, our members wants and deserve.