Judy Ancel, the director of the university’s Institute for Labor Studies, was informed of her impending unemployment via letter sent by Bubacz to Longview Community College on May 29. The letter said UMKC would be ending its funding and connection with Ancel’s Institute for Labor Studies, which had operated as a partnership between UMKC and Longview.
Through Ancel’s institute (she’s the only employee), students at Longview and the Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia campuses of the University of Missouri system could earn a certificate in labor studies. The institute is responsible for the Heartland Radio Forum, a staple for KKFI 90.1 isteners since 1989. Ancel trained future union leaders, taught high school students how to survive in the work force and held conferences on the effects of immigration, globalization and free trade on the local community.
Bubacz and UMKC’s Chancellor Guy Bailey say that cutting Ancel’s program is part of reducing UMKC’s budget by 1 percent, as mandated by the Board of Curators. One percent of UMKC’s budget is $2 million, Ancel says. But her institute is mostly state-funded; UMKC and Longview each contribute only $15,000 to the program. Meanwhile, students in the program contribute through their student fees and UMKC tuition.
“The weird thing about this is they’ll lose more money than they’ll save,” Ancel says. “But because the curators mandated these cuts off the top, it doesn’t matter. They [the provost and the chancellor] don’t have to account for the bottom line. It ends up destroying a program that serves a key mission of UMKC as an urban and land-grant institution.”
Ancel’s faculty and student supporters are passing around a petition to persuade Chancellor Bailey to reconsider cutting the ILS. Some observers have noted darkly that Ancel’s termination might be linked to her criticism of the employment practices of Wal-Mart, a UMKC donor. Ancel helped organize the Roll Back Wal-Mart conference in January 2006. Local Wal-Mart managers marched with Ancel at a large protest downtown following the conference.
Ancel isn’t going for conspiracy theories. “I don’t have any reason to think that’s why this is happening,” she says. “I think the actions of the university speak for themselves. We have one labor educator in a small program to serve the needs of working people, while at the same time the School of Business has about 47 full- and part-time faculty. We don’t begrudge them what they’ve got. We just think there should be balance.”
Ancel was local activist Lindsey Walker’s adviser during her studies for her master’s degree in arts with a focus in labor studies. “She has trained a lot of Kansas City activists in some way, either through the educational setting or through her countless volunteer efforts in the community,” Walker says. “She defines solidarity. I can’t think of a struggle involving workers in which she has not lent her time and expertise.”
Ancel was five years away from retirement. Her position is not eligible for tenure. Bailey told Ancel that he is reconsidering cutting the institute and will let her know his decision tomorrow.
To sign the online petition, e-mail Ancel with your name. – Nadia Pflaum