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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

So long, it’s been good to know yuh: Parting thoughts on UMass Boston

Well, that time has come. It’s our last edition of the semester, and my last two articles for The Mass Media…except for the super special orientation edition, that is. After almost a decade since graduating high school, I’m more than ready to leave; that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my time as a Beacon.

Despite my near constant consternation, there really is a lot to love about UMass Boston. Its diversity is its biggest strength, and its role as a relatively affordable, public commuter university with research programs fills in a hole that is otherwise unoccupied.
While here, I have made some great friends, had some wonderful professors and worked at some amazingly unique organizations. I have been a part of crucially important movements and made a mark—however small—on my newfound community.
Yet I still worry about this institution. I worry a lot.
Over my time at UMass Boston, I learned a lot about our history. It’s filled with stories of student movements and protests, strong union action and widening educational opportunities. UMass Boston was created specifically to serve the underserved in Boston during the socially tumultuous 1960s [1]. It has traditionally been affordable and accessible in many ways.
UMass Boston seems to be headed in an unfortunate direction in a lot of ways. This historical version of UMass Boston seems to bear little resemblance to the one of today. Our administration talks up a progressive game but never follows up with action, and campus life just isn’t what it apparently used to be.
Now to be clear, I don’t want to discount what student organizations and unions are doing these days. They are still active and are still fighting for what’s right. The currently Undergraduate Student Government seems to be trying their best to improve conditions at UMass Boston, and unions are manning a number of fronts with the administration.
But engagement is criminally low, and the administration has saddled student organizations with more and more red tape and ridiculous expectations. They are struggling. I’m sure the administration will try to blame it all on the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’s just not the whole story.
As for affordability, well, we all know what direction that is headed. Every semester, our tuition bills go up. Every year we have to fight against the seemingly annual parking fee increases. The discounted MBTA passes are no longer offered to every student no matter what, the prices for Sodexo’s terrible food are insanity and campus jobs pay a pittance.
As for education, the continued kneecapping of the Africana Studies Department and recent debacle over academic restructuring of the CLA and McCormack Graduate School show that the era of progress is all but over. The administration is locked into a pattern of squeezing, shrinking and downsizing, often in response to increasing debt from its building projects.
On a personal level, my experience has been more of a mixed bag. As I said, I have had a wonderful time with my fellow students, my professors and my coworkers in general. I really feel like the opportunities I have gotten here at UMass Boston have helped me grow as a person. This job as Opinions Editor for The Mass Media has allowed me to connect with so many people in new ways, to use my words to bring awareness and advocate for justice, and to challenge others to make a difference in any way they can.
At the same time, each semester has brought a slew of new issues, insufficiencies and frustrations to life at UMass Boston. My work at The Mass Media drew me further into despair about the state of our university, as I got to understand much of its inner workings. In speaking with student leaders from clubs and student centers, graduate students, staff and faculty, I’ve come to understand just how poorly we are all treated by the higher-ups.
As for the administration themselves, they’ve got all kinds of issues. Over the course of my Mass Media articles, I have encountered example after example of how people in finance, negotiation, public relations and upper management positions appear totally out of touch, status-quo and insufficient.
The useless “For the Times” rebranding solidified our rhetoric about being supposedly anti-racist, health-promoting and community oriented. Yet, at every turn, our administration inevitably shows an utter lack of genuine care and leadership. Instead, they fail to properly acknowledge police killings of our fellow Beacons [2], decline to host long-running MLK Day events, shill for gentrifying private developments on our doorstep [3,4], increase tuition fees every semester and parking fees every year, bargain with unions in bad faith and refuse to pay graduate students a livable wage.
It’s not even just the socio-political aspects of the school that are in trouble, though. The very structure of this place is a mess. In the old buildings, the administration has struggled to improve conditions in a proper and timely manner. The older buildings are obviously terrible—Wheatley is still being worked on to improve major air flow issues that were discovered last year [5], walls are peeling everywhere and the old parking areas underneath are quite literally crumbling to dust.
Even the new buildings are a mess. Elevators are constantly broken. Windows fall out [6]. Doors get ripped off their tracks and aren’t fixed for a year [7]. There’s a near constant, high-pitched whine at the entrance to University Hall. The dorms regularly flood, have rat or mouse problems and are generally just shoddy.
But even in the face of all that is going wrong, there are a few things to look forward to. The obvious one is the new quad, which I unfortunately will not get to enjoy, but many of you will. We’re finally starting to get a better visual idea of how it will all look, and I have to say it seems like it is going to be wonderful.
The other thing to look forward to is, well, you all. While COVID-19 is still a reality, we have finally begun to adapt to our new reality. I’m hoping that this will translate to a bouncing back of student engagement—although the effect of the pandemic might have set back the social progress of grade-school students, which may prove to be problematic.
I’m confident that all of you who will be at UMass Boston for a while longer will bring forth much needed improvement to this university. This goes for faculty too; engagement seems to be increasing, and the unions are still fighting hard for everybody.
So, I’m leaving UMass Boston with complicated feelings. On one hand, I’m relieved to be leaving the stress and frustration I have suffered here. On the other hand, I have had great opportunities and life experience at UMass Boston and will look back on that with happiness.
I am stuck between wanting to put UMass Boston behind me and wanting to actively fight for its betterment. I believe there is still great potential at this university; it’s not a lost cause. Yet I know how draining it is to fight to make a place better.
I don’t know what the future holds for UMass Boston. I hope that what makes it so great is not further diluted, and that it becomes what it truly aspires to be. For me, for now, I’ll say what Woodie Guthrie sand while walking out of the Dustbowl—“So long, it’s been good to know yuh… and I’ve got to be driftin’ along.”
[1]https://www.umb.edu/the_university/history/roots
[2]https://www.umassmedia.com/opinions/sayed-arif-faisal-was-one-of-us/article_e53c4c94-9c21-11ed-9ef9-17d8210c7d94.html
[3]https://www.umassmedia.com/opinions/dorchester-bay-city-from-the-staff-and-faculty-perspective/article_cd36c39a-9dca-11ed-aad4-e7e6b382617c.html
[4]https://www.umassmedia.com/opinions/dorchester-bay-city-is-a-harmful-mistake/article_c1f2879a-9e4b-11ed-ae9a-b3146b556bcf.html
[5]https://www.umassmedia.com/news/report-calls-for-improvements-in-air-quality-in-wheatley-hall/article_b9f6eba6-b749-11ec-921a-f3fedafd57e5.html
[6]https://www.umassmedia.com/opinions/our-administration-is-out-of-touch-and-it-shows/article_d2572840-4fe8-11ed-b886-07f44a3af912.html
[7]https://www.umassmedia.com/opinions/why-in-the-age-of-zoom-must-students-battle-nor-easters-just-to-get-to/article_892d8e52-3e4b-11ec-b7f0-f7b6a07af684.html

About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor