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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
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Bethany Hyland Brown Falls in Love with Budgeting in the Student Senate

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Political Science, 1994

One of the hardest decisions Bethany Hyland Brown had to make as a Student Senator was to shut down the Mass Media. 
A headline in the Boston Globe read, “Student Newspaper Shut Down at UMass Boston.” April, 1993: “Students say that administrators changed the door locks on the student newspaper office late last Thursday to prevent publication of a news story detailing a $256,176 deficit in the student activities trust fund.” 
It all started during the 92/93 school year when Brown ran for student government, and won. 
“I signed up to run on a whim, and was the top vote getter,” she says. “Of course, I didn’t look and see [that] they didn’t have enough people running for the slots available.” 
After a brief and exciting campaign that she won by default, Brown joined the finance committee, and found herself in the midst of a budget crisis. The Student Senate had a huge deficit, and the student newspaper had an issue with advertisers not paying.
“We got notice from the administration that they had one week’s salary left in their account,” Brown says. “We had to make the unpopular decision and told them until they had money in their account to pay for the salaries, or agreed to work for free, they couldn’t operate.” 
In the early 90s, the Student Senate handled the cost of printing the Mass Media, and ad revenue paid the staff.
“We felt strongly because we were facing a deficit of a quarter of a million dollars,” Brown says. “We had to unencumber money, cut costs ourselves. If we had allowed them to continue to operate, we would have been responsible for that debt as well.” 
After some finagling, amid loud protests from students, administrators were able to get the newspaper back on a regular printing schedule. 
“Through that I got a lot of practical crisis management experience,” Brown says. 
In student government, Brown learned to do the right thing, whether or not it’s popular. It was a trial by fire. The budget crisis taught her to be clear about expectations. “You know, this is the agreement we’ve made, and this is what we expect.”
“Being on Student Senate was really rewarding and gave me a lot of experience and self-confidence, and leadership skills that I still use.” 
After graduating from UMass, Brown went on to Suffolk University, the Sawyer School of Management, to get a Masters in public administration with a concentration in disability studies. Now she is a disability law paralegal in the Attorney General’s office in the civil rights division. She works to ensure that services are accessible to people with disabilities. 
“I helped the attorneys that sued Apple over accessibility of iTunes,” Brown said. “iTunes was not accessible to people who use screen-reader software, so we settled with them. We settled with Monster.com over accessibility, and we have a fairness hearing in progress over Cardtronics ATMs, about their accessibility to people with vision impairment. I’m doing a lot of fair housing app work, and disability discrimination work.” 
Brown attended UMass Boston partially because it was close to her home, and could accommodate her learning difficulties. 
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to move away for school, and I had an IEP [Individualized Educational Program] in high school, and a lot of stuff that now technology resolves. I had a scribe in high school because I have dysgraphia from neurological problems, and I looked at what the school offered in terms of accommodations and education, and it’s the only place I applied.” 
She did the honors curriculum, and also joined the student center for learning disabilities and several other clubs, some officially and some unofficially. Student government by far became her favorite activity. 
“I still have friends from student government,” she says. “A few years ago I was at an engagement party for a friend in student government, and another friend from student government was like, ‘Did you see the Fox News report about the conditions of the garage?’ Evidently, student government was asked why this wasn’t taken this more seriously. Then they went back to their records and they said, ‘Well, Senator Bethany Hyland, mentioned it back in whatever date. Here are the minutes.’” 
The most important things she learned at UMass Boston were self-confidence and leadership skills. 
“When I was a student there, there was a lot of student activism trying to convince the legislature to give the school more money. We would all, en masse, go to the state house. My freshman year, everybody went on strike and had classes at the state house, and everybody lobbied their legislators for money for the school.” 
“I remember one year I had done a couple of internships at the state house, and my senior year we were delivering annual packets of letters to legislators saying you’ve gotta give UMass money, and my friend Steve Shuman and I were there representing student government, doing our thing. We passed the printing office for the House of Representatives.”
The door was closed, but there was a long line in front for no apparent reason.
She said, “Oh my god Steve, let’s get in line.”
He said, “Do you even know what the line is for?”
She said, “No, but there’s a huge line and the printing office is closed. We should just stand here and find out what it is.”
The state released copies of the budget to everyone standing in that line—back before the internet developed.
“We were big men on campus because we actually got printed copies of the entire state budget.”
Spending most of her time on the fourth floor of Wheatley Hall, where the student clubs were, Brown remembers feeling claustrophobic. 
“It’s nice to see an actual student union building there. It’s a commuter school, and it really needed a place for students to hang out. That was lacking when I went. We all hung out on the fourth floor of Wheatley, but there really wasn’t enough space. I was there when we had the downtown campus as well, and when they closed that we kind of had space wars. There wasn’t enough space for the amount of stuff that was going on.”
Despite the space issues, and the relatively dull campus buildings, she loved all of her classes, and professors always had time to talk. 
“I had lots of classes with Dr. Watanabe. You’d be talking with him about the same stuff that he was consulting news media about. It was interesting to see how class conversations were part of what was on the local news.”

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010