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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Student Trustee David Loh Burned Effigy in Protest of Fee Hikes

Political+Science+BA%2C+1994

Political Science BA, 1994

“I consider UMass Boston to be a school of redemption,” David Loh says sitting in a massive glass walled conference room in a brick factory building from the industrial era with original wooden floors and beams, sanded and stained, supporting the steel ductwork that wafts cool scents of coffee, quality paper and ink toner throughout the offices of Chu, Ring & Hazel LLP. 
“I had gone to an ivy league school, Cornell, straight from high school,” Loh says. “I hated that place, so after six months I quit and then I came to Boston because my sister was going to school here, and I started working for fast food places. I drove a cab. I was a bike messenger. People would say you need to go back to school, so I actually looked around and I said, hey, UMass Boston’s a pretty decent school.” 
Loh figured he had to restart somewhere, and he didn’t want to go to a community college. To him UMass Boston was a step up. 
“I went to UMass Boston thinking I’ll go there for a year, transfer out to a quote-unquote better school, and then I ended up really liking it.” 
He got involved in student activities, made some friends, and stuck around. 
“That was a time of huge budget cuts, so we were organizing protests literally every week. We had marches throughout the campus. We had sit-ins at the chancellor’s office, and we had marches to the statehouse, and, in fact, even burned an effigy of the governor and the chancellor at one point.” 
Though he didn’t consider himself an activist, Loh lead many of the protests. 
“I thought that tripling our tuition and fees over a four year period was just wrong. I was born in Korea, and I was always raised to believe, and I still do believe that education is the most important thing in any society, period. Education allows you to advance in life.” 
The agitation with budget cuts and fee hikes came to a head one day in the plaza with campus police watching tensely. 
“I learned that you could literally lead a crowd to burn things down,” Loh says. “I think that was a culmination of our frustration. Other people took it further, and they started doing marches, interrupting classes. I was against that because my point was: Damn it. We’re here for education!” 
He felt that students shouldn’t be solely responsible for requesting state support for public education. 
“The effigy was of Governor Weld, and Chancellor Penny was in his pocket.” 
Becoming vocal about school funding allowed Loh to rise in the student government. He became chair of the budget and finance committee. At the same time he worked in the Student Life office and copy edited for the Mass Media. Then, in his junior year he was elected to be the Student Trustee. He got reelected in his senior year. 
“I thought that education should never be cut, period, and I still believe that. It is the thing that you have to invest in the state. Otherwise we’ll become Louisiana or Mississippi. The reason why they don’t advance is because they don’t invest in education. You look at all the data on how much people spend per child, there’s a direct correlation among all the states.” 
When he started taking classes at UMass Boston, Loh made the most of his education. 
“One thing about UMass Boston is we’re really serious students,” Loh says. “No one went to UMass Boston to party. Now I know people partied, sure, but if you wanted to party, you went to UMass Amherst, ZooMass, and then those who went to UMass Boston, they were for the most part very serious students.” 
Deeply involved with student life, Loh found a group of friends with a similar work ethic. 
“Some of my best friends are from UMass Boston,” Loh says. “Each one of us were all returning students, a little bit older. I think that’s why we clicked, but we were also involved in student government, so that also helped, so we were the three sort of rabble-rousers.” 
As a student, Loh also played on a softball team with a group of veterans. 
“There were guys who were fifty years old, going back to school, and it was great just hanging out with them, talking to them. So there’s a lot there, so don’t forget to learn from those people too.” 
He also remembers his professors being really dedicated, and he especially enjoyed studying with Winston Langley, who is now the provost. 
“He’s the one who set me on this path,” Loh says. “His international relations class, I just remember it being so interesting, because we were reading case law about specific instances and also you start thinking about how would you establish law on the moon, because that’s international law, because the moon is shared in some sense.” 
After that class Winston Langley became Loh’s advisor. 
“I owe a debt to that guy,” he says. “He was the one who said, ‘Hey, have you thought about going to law school?’” 
At UMass Boston, Loh learned to raise his expectations of himself. 
“I’m not necessarily saying we’re walking around with our heads down, but I think there’s this idea that UMass Boston is not really a premier school. But we know that we work hard [and] do the best we can under the circumstances we find ourselves.” 
If you ever go back and read some of the Mass Media articles Loh wrote, he was very critical of the administrators. 
“You could say I was young and a little bit bitter, and maybe even angry that here I am trying to go to school, and they’re making it as difficult as possible by doubling or tripling my tuition and fees, making it so difficult that I have to use credit cards.” 
Loh would like to see administrators focusing on keeping, and even raising more state funding, rather than looking to raise fees, because investments in education yield great returns over time. 
As a UMass Boston student, Loh also learned how much of a positive difference state and local government could make on people’s lives. 
“I got an opportunity to represent the entire campus at the UMass Trustee Board, and I said a few things in a way that probably was more angry than anything else, but I was still youthful, and I did not know better, but at least I got an opportunity to stand up for something in a way that maybe made a little difference.” 
In one meeting he actually convinced the board to not raise the tuition. 
“It eventually went up, but at least I got one person to change her mind, and prevented them for at least about a week, maybe two weeks from voting on a tuition increase in the magnitude that they were considering, so I felt like I was able to accomplish something at least in the short term, and maybe some other legislators read that newspaper article, and then said, you know, these students are really hurting here. We really have to reset our priorities.” 
Loh thinks the whole culture of the school, as well as vision, has changed for the better under Chancellor Keith Motley. 
“I think UMass Boston, more than any other university around here, really is here for students in the Massachusetts and New England region.” 
After graduation, Loh clerked in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, and eventually worked his way into a law degree. Now he is a law firm partner working with start up companies. 
“Last year in my taxes, I paid back more than all the tuition and fees that I paid to UMass Boston in just one year. So whatever the subsidy was, I paid that back probably ten times in my career right now, and I’m going to keep doing this. So clearly, they’re getting a really good return on me and a vast majority of us, so it’s a really, really good investment, a huge investment, more than probably any other investment that they’re making.” 
“Any society that invests in education is going to do well, and obviously you have to tinker with the specifics, but I think the general concept should be: invest in the education and you’ll get a great return.”

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