DailyDouble: State primaries held today, UMass Labor Center fight hits front page

Voting in key primaries closes at 8 p.m; UMass Labor Center dispute covered in Boston Globe; Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary.

Photo: Massachusetts State House in June 2016.
(Zac Bears/The Double Standard)

Welcome to the DailyDouble for September 8, 2016. Our goal here is to provide quick and easy reads to keep you updated. Let us know if you have any comments or suggestions.

1. Primary Election Day in Massachusetts

It’s Primary Election Day in Massachusetts! Polls close at 8:00 p.m. Find your polling place at wheredoivotema.com.

Even with several competitive Democratic primary elections across the Commonwealth, state officials expect very low turnout—maybe even below 10 percent.

Our lovely media colleagues over at the Globe made a handy election day guide. WGBH’s statehouse reporter Mike Deehan says these five races are the ones to watch today.

In Greater Boston, there are key races for Norfolk, Bristol and Plymouth state senator between Nora Harrington and Rep. Walter Timilty and Seventh Suffolk state representative between Monica Cannon, Marydith Tuitt and Chynah Tyler.

As a Medford resident, I’ll be paying particular attention to the race for Second Middlesex state senator between Sen. Patricia Jehlen and Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung. This election made headlines last week when Jehlen debated a pro-charter school lobbyist whose firm made tens of thousands of dollars in expenditures to support Cheung. (I’ll be voting for Jehlen.)

In the Worcester area, there are several major primaries for state representative. Read more from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. (I’m pulling for my friend Natalie Higgins in the Worcester 4th!)

Down Cape, Julian Cyr and Sheila Lyons are running to replace Senator Dan Wolf.

Out West, six candidates are vying to replace Rep. Ellen Story for the Amherst-Pelham 3rd Hampshire district seat. There are also competitive races for House and Senate in the Berkshires.

2. Funding cuts to UMass Labor Center make front page of Boston Globe

Great reporting from Laura Krantz at the Boston Globe put the dispute over the Labor Center at UMass Amherst on the front page today. Krantz spoke with many of the key players, including the recently dismissed former director Eve Weinbaum, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences John Hird and labor leaders, alumni and activists from across the country.

University administrators doubled down on their denial of any sort of ‘attack’ on the Labor Center and labor studies master’s degree programs. But Weinbaum said that the biggest issue is that the Center cannot meet its mission “if we can only accept [students] who can afford a $60,000 master’s degree.”

Hird said administrators were taking these actions because enrollment has declined: there were only two new students this year, making 16 total students, compared to 30 total students in 2006.

However, falling enrollment might have something to do with increasing costs and the difficulty of paying such a high price for a postgraduate degree.

Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steve Tolman said he was “deeply troubled to learn about the recent attacks on this program.”

Krantz also quoted Joseph McCartin, a Georgetown history professor, who told her that university labor centers across the nation fear that cuts and administrators will destroy their programs as well.

“[If] they put so much resource limits on the center they’re not going to be able to support women or people of color or working-class people,” said Sameerah Ahmad, a 2011 labor studies graduate and executive director of the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center.

“Until now, (the Center) has relied on a patchwork of university funds to open its program to needy students,” Krantz wrote in the piece. Labor Center leaders and alumni blame these funding cuts and cost increases for the collapse in the program’s enrollment.

Bonus: Today is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek

With five TV series and 13 movies to its name, Star Trek is the most expansive fictional universe seen on camera. The show’s message of social justice, and its willingness to provide strong social commentary on television starting the 1960s, continues to impact our politics and society to this day. President Barack Obama is an avowed Star Trek fan.

When Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura in the original series and six subsequent films, considered leaving Star Trek for Broadway prospects, she received a call from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. telling her that she had to stay. According to Nichols, King said, “Nichelle, whether you like it or not, you have become an symbol. If you leave, they can replace you with a blonde haired white girl, and it will be like you were never there. What you’ve accomplished, for all of us, will only be real if you stay.”

Trek has also had a huge influence on the digital society we live in today, from smartphones to iPads to the Internet. Even Facebook got in on today’s fun.

The upcoming sixth TV series, Star Trek: Discovery, boldly goes where no Trek has gone before: to CBS’s streaming platform in January 2017.

Zac Bears can be reached at zac@dblstand.com.

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