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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Independent gubernatorial candidates discuss higher education at UMass Boston


From left to right: Scott Lively, Jeff McCormick, Evan Falchuk, and Professor Maurice Cunningham

“Why in the world are you being asked to take on so much debt to get an education ― it’s just wrong,” said candidate Evan Falchuk at the gubernatorial forum at UMass Boston.

Falchuk sat alongside two other independent candidates, Jeff McCormick and Scott Lively, on a stage in Campus Center Ballroom on the morning of Oct. 20. 

Maurice Cunningham, Associate Professor of Political Science, moderated the discussion and fielded questions from the audience at the end. A range of topics relating to public higher education were covered. 

The forum began on the issue of mounting student debt. McCormick brought up the concept of schools that operate on shorter cycles than the typical four year standard as well as the opportunities of increasing technology in higher education.

“Technology is a tremendous skill [to have as a student, and it also] has phenomenal outcomes when blending it into the learning to bring down the actual cost of delivering education.”

Falchuk compared the financial bubbles of the past to a future student loan one.

“When you’ve got private entities making a lot of money off you borrowing money, they get into almost an arms race. It becomes a competition between different schools as to who’s got the best facilities. And they can pay for it by making you take on more debt,” said Falchuk.

Professor Cunningham steered the conversation towards a late-September gubernatorial forum at The Innovation & Policy Center at Microsoft’s Cambridge offices, which Martha Coakley described “disruptive” technology with negative connotations.

“Martha Coakley didn’t know that, in the world of technology, disruption is a good thing,” said Falchuk. “Political disruption is [also] a good thing.”

Throughout the forum, all three candidates labeled the current political system as “broken” and suffering from “club-ism,” which makes it difficult for outsiders with different patterns of ideas or values to gain traction. They pointed out how the media perpetuates this system by only focusing on the candidates from the two main parties.

The next topic covered was whether or not there could be a balance struck between in-state student needs and foreign and out-of-state students, in the context of less funding.

“People want to get an education in [Massachusetts] because you can get a good education in [Massachusetts],” said Falchuk. “But schools are out there seeking foreign students in order to drive more revenue to the schools.”

McCormick felt that the resource needs of in-state citizens looking to get an in-state education should “clearly” be met, and also that vocational schools deliver skills needed for jobs in high demand.

“We [must] work on our immigration policy. We don’t do a very good job of rolling out the red carpet for our [international] graduates.”

The governor has the power to appoint trustee members. Student Trustee, Nolan O’Brien, asked whether two students on the board was an adequate number to represent the student body.

Candidate Lively said he was a firm believer in people having an amount of say in something proportionate to their stake.

A second audience member, Nick, inquired what each candidate would do after the election.

“I’m in this race to be able to advocate a biblical worldview. The young people of this institution [don’t know] about their incredible Christian heritage in this country because that information is now all censored. I want to stop that censorship and bring those ideas back to the way it used to [be],” said Lively, a lawyer and pastor.

For Healthcare executive Falchuk, if he gets 3% of the votes his United Independent Party will win official party status. Through this he hopes to attract the large numbers of voters registered as independents.

Founder of startup developer, Saturn Partners, McCormick said, “I’ve created thousands of jobs, from bio-tech to software. Come Nov. 5, I’ll either be doing that in the private or public sector.”

Members from the undergraduate student government were responsible for coordinating with people on campus and off to make the event possible. 

Said Ignacio Chaparro, student body president,”It was a lot of emails sent back and forth between me and [contacts at the campaigns]. [Student trustee Nolan O’Brien] and I drafted up the initial email. Coakley said she wasn’t able to, we never heard back from Baker, but the three independents were able to confirm.”