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The Mass Media

Ask Bobby #12
September 25, 2023

Our administration is out of touch and it shows


A broken window in the Campus Center waits for replacement marked with red tape.

You know, contrary to what some may believe, I don’t relish having to lambast our administration or talk disparagingly about our school. I really do love it here—though mostly because of the students and professors. It would make me so happy to talk about how great our administration is or how well-managed and accessible our campus remains. Unfortunately, I can’t; and last week, we had yet another example of how poorly managed this school is.
Many of you might’ve noticed the broken windowpane in the back hallway coming out of the cafeteria in Campus Center a couple weeks ago. The thing was completely shattered, with so many spiderweb cracks radiating from some impact point that you could barely see through it. Well, according to Facilities Management, the thing was broken on Oct. 11, yet wasn’t removed until last Monday, the 17. When it was removed, shattered glass was all over the sidewalk for hours. Currently, only one of the double panes is in that window.
It’s crazy to think about the fact that our school would let a shattered windowpane remain in place above one of the busiest areas on campus. Maintenance told me that the tempered glass that is used won’t come out of its frame when shattered. To be clear, I’m not blaming maintenance, but rather the prioritizing that comes from the top down. But when the new Handcock Tower was first built, its similar glass panes were raining down on the sidewalk for months. Stuff happens; what if it shattered while people were under it? What if the whole pane fell at once, crushing anyone beneath it? It’s a disturbing thought.
Why in the world did the school not replace this shattered windowpane before it possibly endangered the safety of everyone who uses that area? If you’ve read any of my other articles, you’ll know what I think of our administration’s decision making and prioritization of projects—if not, suffice it to say that it’s not a high opinion. Sure, this instance may not have been the most dangerous situation ever, but there is no shortage of structural and accessibility issues at our school: Crumbling walls, air circulation issues in Wheatley, broken elevators and doors that haven’t been repaired since last year.
In fact, this windowpane isn’t even the only broken piece of glass on campus. One of the glass panes that line the Healey Library catwalk—you know, the one that thousands of people walk under every day—has a huge crack in it. In fact, it’s been cracked since before the walkway was shifted farther away from it, and the winds in that area can certainly be high enough to blow a big, flat piece of broken glass towards the current walkway. It also seems as if these panes are not made of the same tempered glass as in Campus Center.
Put simply, our aging campus is run down and falling apart. Even the newer buildings have broken elevators. It’s ridiculous that the administration isn’t prioritizing the current state of our buildings and the wellbeing of existing students.  They are opting, instead, to make the place look superficially nice to prospective students. I don’t know about all of you, but as much as I talk up our school, I and my UMass Boston friends are also very vocal about the sad state of our campus and our aloof, out-of-touch administration. It seems to me that no marketing campaign can supersede the truth, which gets out there through social media, word of mouth and this newspaper. The best way to get people to come to UMass Boston is to actually improve UMass Boston—and not to simply change a slogan and some logos.
It even goes beyond structural issues: Graduate students and other staff or faculty aren’t even being paid. The Africana Studies department is being destroyed. The “eduroam” Wi-Fi is, at best, slow and intermittent. Unions are having to fight to get decent parking rates for all of us. The shuttle bus routes are increasingly inefficient. All-in-all, it seems that while the 25-year master plan takes us forward into the future, our campus is sliding back into turmoil.
Look. We all know it. I’ve written about it many times. The UMass Boston administration—our administration—is completely out of touch with us and our needs and wishes. Despite lame attempts at superficial “availability”—maybe a couple hours of tabling in Campus Center—they just don’t seem to get it. Actually, it seems that they, themselves, know this too; many of you might’ve seen the email that was sent out last week announcing the search for an ombudsperson—by Oxford definition, “an official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against maladministration, especially that of public authorities.” This probably has a lot to do with mediation with the unions and Africana Studies—coming on the heels of the United Staff Union’s parking demands and a tentative agreement to talks with the Africana Studies department—but I’m also guessing that they will be doing quite a bit of damage control with the student population as well. At least I hope so.
But let’s get a picture of exactly how out-of-touch these people are. A student who wishes to remain wishes to remain anonymous had a pretty indicative interaction with a school administrator just a few weeks ago and sent me the story so others might be able to hear it. For the sake of convenience, we’ll just call this student “Kai”.
You see, Kai and their friend were in the cafeteria, heatedly discussing “how the school can spend $1.5 million on a marketing campaign that’s essentially a logo change but won’t fix any of the actual issues in the school like the incredibly unstable wifi [sic].” They spoke about many of the other issues I’ve highlighted as well; and wouldn’t you know it, but one of our own finance administrators overheard the conversation and decided to make his position known. According to Kai, this admin went on about “how important marketing campaigns are to non-profit universities like UMass”, which really rubbed Kai the wrong way, since not only had the professor verbally conceded that marketing does indeed need to be part of the equation, but Kai—along with every other student here—has nevertheless given the school tens of thousands of dollars for their education, accruing lots of financial debt.
Shockingly, this admin also tried to shrug off the Wi-Fi situation by saying he’s never experienced issues with it—which Kai promptly responded to by filling him in on the very common and obvious problems with it. How out of touch can you get? He also tried to say that the air circulation issues in Wheatley were some sort of mystery. This, to me, is outrageous, as it was to Kai since they apparently have overheard professors speak about how they gave the administration a report they made about the airflow, and yet have been ignored. This is clearly an issue of building structure and architecture; it’s not that hard to figure out.
Even more disturbingly, Kai told me that this admin began placing some blame on tenured professors, since they do not have variable salaries. This really is unbelievable; it’s not professor’s salaries we should be docking, it’s the leadership. Our chancellor gets paid nearly half a million dollars a year for running our institution—and with questionable effectiveness at that. He also claimed that Kai would be paying more for a university in the professor’s home state, as some sort of excuse.  Ironically, Kai told me he’s actually paying about twice as much money to come here than to enroll at their home university.
But perhaps the biggest indictment into the attitude of some administrators here at UMass Boston is that this guy actually closed out his argument by telling Kai and their friend that “life gets worse after college.” What a wonderful message to send to students.
In regard to the admin explaining that their office is at the top floor of Healey Library, Kai told me this: “But this is the problem: admin who project their unhappiness, don’t interact with the student body or professors, who just see all of us as numbers and not people. It’s degrading to the core idea of education, especially public education.”
Well, I couldn’t agree more, Kai. And for the record, I’ve worked at the top floor of Healey Library with a bunch of wonderful people at the William Joiner Institute, and we all cared enough about the people we served to climb down off of our ivory tower every day and be a part of the community. Many of us were students, true, and that likely helped us to remain humble. But for pity’s sake, administrators, please engage with students and professors on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, we cannot elect our leaders here at UMass Boston. But what we can do is make noise, spread the word and make the administration face that fact that we are totally unsatisfied with their dismissive treatment of the student body, as well as the staff and faculty. I encourage all of you to attend any open administrative sessions—usually we get notice by email—and make your voices heard! Attend in person if possible, since questions are seemingly not taken over Zoom—suspicious to say the least. Elsewise, just speak up about your dissatisfaction to anyone who will listen and don’t stop; this administration needs to hear us, and the louder we are, the more likely they will listen. And with regard to our crumbling campus, I encourage everyone to report maintenance issues they encounter through the school’s website. You can search for “Request Services” under the “Facilities” section of the umb.edu website and follow the instructions there.
Let’s make the administration do its job!

About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor