Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The big business of higher education has taken a whack at the labor movement in Kansas City. The University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) shut down the Institute for Labor Studies for no good reason except that it wanted to do it. The Institute has been operating since 1985 and an exceptional reputation amongst local labor and working class activists. Judy Ancel (pictured here), the Institute director, is a long time activist in the Kansas City area and is herself highly respected.

On a personal note, I've known Judy for years and I can say that she has never wavered in her promotion of the rights and struggles of workers and the working class in the US and around the world. If I was a betting man, I'd wager this is the reason for her termination and the shutting down of the Institute.

As Kansas City's alternative newspaper The Pitch pointed out:

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 listeners 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.

University officials claim the elimination of the program is a cost cutting measure only. However, the Institute is primarily a state funded program. UMKC and Longview Community College each contribute only $15,000 to the program. Meanwhile, students in the program contribute through their student fees and UMKC tuition.

Ancel told the Pitch,"“The weird thing about this is they’ll lose more money than they’ll save. 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.”

Although some supporters think her termination may be the result of her open criticism of University supporter Wal-Mart (The Pitch points out 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), Judy herself isn't interested in conspiracy theories. She told the Pitch,

“I don’t have any reason to think that’s why this is happening. 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 five years away from retirement. Her position is not eligible for tenure.

You can register a protest with an email to Chancellor Guy Bailey at

The following article is from today's Kansas City Star.

UMKC cancels Institute for Labor Studies

The Institute for Labor Studies will be the first University of Missouri-Kansas City program eliminated in budget cuts ordered earlier this month by curators of the four-campus system.

“This is going to hurt every labor union in Kansas City,” said Jim Stoufer, president of the Greater Kansas City Community Action Program Council, the political action arm of the United Auto Workers local representing about 40,000 people here.

The institute has offered a six-course certificate in labor studies for people who want to be union leaders or organizers, or run for a union office.

“We will lose a valuable resource we have for training and education, and I imagine there will be a backlash against UMKC from labor if this happens,” Stoufer said.

But UMKC Chancellor Guy Bailey said Tuesday that the university has already decided it will not help fund the institute another year.

University of Missouri curators at their May 31 meeting in Columbia asked the chancellors of each of the four campuses — Kansas City, Columbia, St. Louis and Rolla — to cut spending by 1 percent each year for the next three years to help fund salary increases for faculty.

Bailey said then that cutting nearly $2 million from his budget would mean eliminating some university centers and institutes and perhaps some staff jobs.

With the elimination of the institute, the only labor-education and worker-training program of its kind in the Kansas City area, Judith Ancel could be out of a job.

“I feel enormously disappointed,” said Ancel, who has run the institute since 1985 and is its only full-time staff member. “To destroy this labor education program is really depriving our citizens, most of whom are working people, of a dialogue that is not biased.”

Ancel said she learned the institute was being cut when she received a copy of a letter sent last month to the president of Longview Community College. The letter was sent to inform Longview that UMKC would no longer continue the program, which the two campuses help pay for.

UMKC and Longview each contribute about $15,000 to the institute’s $107,000 budget, Ancel said. The UM System puts in $42,900; the rest, about $34,000, comes from tuition and fees.

Bailey said he thought the certificate program “should be offered without the administrative structure of the institute” through the university’s continued education program. And he suggested that perhaps the UMKC Department of Economics would hire Ancel as a member of it faculty.

“But that would be up to them,” Bailey said.

The institute offers some credit and noncredit courses to students on all four system campuses, using video hookups. About 400 students across the state have enrolled in courses over the last five years. And at 6 p.m. every Thursday, the institute produces the Heartland Labor Forum radio broadcast on KKFI radio.

“We teach the nuts and bolts of labor law, collective bargaining and labor history,” Ancel said.

Stoufer said if the program is eliminated “it will leave a big vacancy. It is just frustrating.”

Bailey said other university centers and institutes may be eliminated in the near future. Members of the Faculty Senate and the university budget committee will review the programs and help university administrators decide which will go. Bailey told them not to touch any degree-granting programs.

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