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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

ARMS Center Returns to UMass Boston

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The Wellness Center and the Disabled Student Center are currently on hiatus. 

The Advocacy and Resources for Modern Survival (ARMS) Center is returning to the University of Massachusetts Boston in fall 2013. In the past, the ARMS Center provided UMass Boston with resources and services to help accommodate and educate students struggling in poverty.
The ARMS Center has been on hiatus since fall 2012, when the hired student coordinator dropped out of her duties (and the university) a couple of weeks into the semester.
The Office of Student Activities and Leadership’s assistant director, Bob Cole, who advises all the centers in the university, explains, “The center was not funded by the student government association last year. However, this year it is funded for a work-study student.”
That student is psychology major Jamie Zoba, who writes, “I am glad to have the opportunity to bring the ARMS Center back to life. … I really want to rebuild the ARMS Center for future years.
“The coordinators of the student centers are all very bright, energetic, and caring people,” she added.  
Shirley Fan-Chan is the director of U-ACCESS, the UMass Boston office designed to help students facing personal and financial hardships. “Collaboration across campus services is critical. When our on-campus support services cannot provide particular services, we have to assist students to access off-campus support services.
“The process can be dreadful and traumatic. This is when support services like U-ACCESS can step in. ARMS Center can be well served as a clearinghouse to allow students access to the entry point and refer to appropriate services like ours.”
Zoba agrees. “My plans for the center are to work closely with U-ACCESS and the other student centers in achieving the purpose of the ARMS center’s mission statement by co-hosting events, and many other plans are in the works.”
One former ARMS Center coordinator, now a UMass Boston graduate, shared some ideas about how to run the center. “A good coordinator should be first and foremost attentive to their clientele, which is the students and no one else. They should not succumb to other organizations on campus. … I believe it’s a difficult job and a very difficult environment to put a student in.”
It’s unclear who, if anybody, will advise the center. Cole comments, “Faculty advisors are generally chosen by the student organization and not by their Student Activities advisor. Advisors may at times make recommendations or suggestions.”
The center was founded at UMass Boston in 1987 by Diane Dujon and Dottie Stevens, students in the College of Public and Community Service. Dujon later became a professional staff member in the college and was assigned to advise the center, which she did until it closed in 2012. According to the website for UMass Boston’s Labor Resource Center, another body for which Dujon sits on the advisory board, she is now retired.
The former coordinator accuses Dujon and Stevens of having an exclusive clientele in mind. “They wanted female coordinators because basically they wanted it as a center for low-income women, mothers with kids, and immigrant women.”
The coordinator’s reaction toward that idea? “I believe poverty affects all: not only women, not only children. It affects all. I did not say no to anyone who came to my center.”
The former coordinator was also skeptical as to whether a single mother could operate the center. “If you are a full-time student, which is required, and you’re working part time — a little under forty hours — it’s not a model that would work particularly. These people have obligations, a.k.a their children and their studies. .. Its not the most feasible idea.”
The return of the ARMS Center is pushing the issue of students living in poverty to the front line. Fan-Chan elaborates, “It is not about how many students we have in poverty, and poverty is a broad term related to needs and support, not just about financial means.”
“I think having a place with resources to help those in poverty is important. It’s a safe environment [where] you can go,” says Audrey Enman, a French and English major.
Brittaney Kelly, a sociology major, has similar thoughts. “I think [the center] will be very useful for people who need it.” 
The former coordinator adds, “Being Boston’s only public university, we have a very large percentage of people who come here on academic scholarships, grants, and loans who need to know this kind of information.”
“With the economic recovery things are taken up slowly but still, unemployment, food stamps, and adversity for low-income individuals are still very high.”
The consensus? “We are all poor together.”