Peyser outlines corporate agenda for higher ed

Mass. Education Secretary said current public higher education system is “a formula for mediocrity”

Photo: Charlie Baker. (Wikimedia Commons)

James Peyser, Massachusetts secretary of education, outlined his desire to bring corporate, profit-based management strategies to public colleges and universities during this year’s convocation ceremony at UMass Boston on September 15.

This is just the latest neoliberal push by Governor Charlie Baker’s administration, who have also begun to privatize hundreds of public transportation jobs at the MBTA and support a Wall Street-funded ballot question to privatize even more public schools across the state.

During his remarks, Peyser said that “educational leaders” (read: administrators) need to separate “the wheat from the chaff,” adding that the university “can’t afford to keep marginal programs on life support.”

This comes after nationally-renowned programs in Africana Studies at UMass Boston and the Labor Center at UMass Amherst have come under assault from administrators who want the departments to cut faculty and degree programs in order to generate more revenue.

Peyser called the core promise of providing education in all subject areas, regardless of profitability, “a formula for mediocrity.”

Will high school history class be next?

His proposal means that all departments must become revenue generators, facing cuts and destruction unless they can bring in students who can afford to pay full tuition. 

“Rather than subsidize the center… the university is simply requiring the center to use its own funds to run its own programs,” a UMass Amherst spokesperson said regarding the Labor Center.

Peyser said he wants this to be “transformational change” in education. Massachusetts has the best K-12 education system in America and one of the best public higher education systems.

In fact, the biggest problem with public higher education is a lack of state funding that makes college too expensive for many students and families.

Mass. Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni said she was “chilled” by Peyser’s “disturbing” comments about public education. She also said his plan for education was similar to an “automobile factory,” parrying Peyser, who quoted Henry Ford during his remarks.

When confronted with opposition, Peyser instantly began a corporate PR campaign. He said he “loved” the “great reception,” calling the professors who questioned his management strategy “enthusiastic.”

Andy Metzger, a State House News Service reporter, wrote that the audience was booing and yelling, particularly when Peyser announced that he opposes the Fair Share Amendment that would raise the revenues to stop faculty layoffs and cuts to academic programs.

I’m not sure I understand his definition of “great.”

UMass Boston administrators came to Peyser’s aid during the event, with the State House News Service reporting that Motley was “urging people to show respect” before he presented Peyser with a telescope so he can look down at the UMass Boston campus from Beacon Hill.

Zac Bears can be reached at


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