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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.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

The Secret History of UMB

Walter+Birnbaum%2C+in+his+Presidential+photo.
Walter Birnbaum, in his Presidential photo.

Most people know that UMass Boston has the distinction of being the only public university in Boston proper, or that we merged with Boston State College in 1982. Almost everyone has heard that our campus was designed by a prison architect, or that J. Keith Motley is the school’s first African-American chancellor. But did you know that there is a lot more to the history and heritage of UMass Boston than that? Here are some of the lesser-known factoids about the school.

  • In 2000, the first presidential debate between George Bush and Al Gore was hosted in the Clark Athletic center.
  • There’s some truth to the whole prison rumor: Harry Mohr Weese, who designed Healey Library, was the designer of the Metropolitan Correctional Facility in Chicago.
  • The building of the campus was the subject of a huge scandal when several of the contractors were caught bribing members of the State Senate. These contractors were using the parking lots under Wheatley and Healey to store bodies for Howie Winter (the long time head of the Winter Hill Gang) and later, Whitey Bulger. This is why today, students are prevented from parking there.
  • When the campus first opened, it wasn’t a commuter school. Due to tensions with Russia at the time, dorms were built underground, and could house up to 10,000 students, as well as keep them safe from nuclear attack. However, in 1975, the bunker/dorms had to be abandoned due to a rat infestation.
  • The Beatles were scheduled to play a concert on campus during their first trip to America, but Ringo was superstitious about playing on peninsulas, so the concert was moved to Fenway Park.
  • Walter T. Birnbaum, a longtime worker in the mailroom, was nominated by the rats to be their king in 1976, shortly after he had helped them drive the students out of the bunkers, for reasons unknown.
  • Birnbaum, a self-professed UMass Boston historian, says that “there is a vast network of underground tunnels, some made by people, most made by my friends, the rats. In fact, did you know that you can get between any of the UMass schools except for Dartmouth through these tunnels?” When asked why you can’t get to Dartmouth, Birnbaum replied, “Because UMass Dartmouth sucks. Snobby rats there.”
  • There is a clause embedded in the shuttle bus contract with Crystal Transport that states that “Any student possessing a valid commercial driver’s license, may be allowed to drive the shuttle bus if he or she sits in the driver’s seat when the driver takes a break.” This is designed to ensure that the shuttle service runs continuously.
  • Contrary to what Occupy UMass Boston says, 98.7% of all tuition and fees are invested directly into educating students, according to the UMass Boston Department of Statistics and Information.
  • The first chancellor of UMass Boston was Phillip K. Weatherman, who was praised for his multicultural and pro-civil rights views, although he harbored a deep hatred for Tuvaluan people, once saying that “the only thing smaller than the mind of a Tuvaluan is the size of his country”. He was a staunch advocate of their genocide, a position which ultimately led to his dismissal.
  • The Department of Temporal Studies, which was focused on building a time machine, vanished suddenly from campus on May 13, 1985.
  • And finally, on a more positive (and serious!) note, Food Services Manager Melody Hanson says that starting next fall, you’ll be able to buy beer in the Campus Center cafeteria. “This is something that many students have asked for, and since a large portion of our student population is over 21, we think this decision makes sense,” said Hanson.