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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

Dateline: Downtown

As Matthew Rkiouak News section reported this week, the school’s trustees voted in favor of two new academic buildings and installing “living and learning communities”, which I will hereafter refer to as “dorms”. I’m not sure what the second building will become, but the first one is going to be a new Science Building, the “Integrated Sciences Complex”, built with most of the $125 million allotted us by Governor Patrick earlier this year. The remaining money will be spent exterminating the feral cats that feed the C.H.U.D. in our substructure, thus disrupting the underground dwellers’ food supply and driving them into the sunlight where we can then battle them in the open.

A new Science building is great, and maybe pouring money into the scurvy substructure instead of junking it and building anew carefully and well is the thing to do, but what will attract the most attention and hand-wringing over the next few years will be the dorms. I don’t share the hesitations some have with the idea. I don’t think it will be the death of our school culture, because we don’t have a school culture. We have a good academic University that is structured, socially, like a community college; people do their time here and then run off to their jobs. That’s fine. I don’t want that to change, don’t want to go back to this being a haven for kids who partied out of Dartmouth like it was forty years ago.

I think dorms can be, and will be great for this school if the idea is executed properly. They shouldn’t be built with whosoever can pay the most for them in mind, and precedence should not necessarily be given to people who live far away. Precedence should be given, rather, to people who need to get out of where they live. A kid who lives in the Lenox Street Projects may be closer to school than someone who commutes from Duxbury, but the kid from Duxbury can bloody well afford a hole in the wall at Harbor Point like anyone else. The kid from Lenox deserves a way out of his neighborhood, where it should be easier for him to study once he’s not surrounded by random chaos.

Single mothers who can drop their kids off at Early Learning and carry them home would be good tenants. Also the handicapped who don’t want to mess with the MBTA unless they have to. There are dozens of homeless students on campus who are currently living in their cars or on couches. So many students face such jarring needs in a very difficult housing market, and dorms can only help. However, if we make the dorms anything but needs-based we’re going to fall into the same trap so many other schools have: we will become slumlords for suburbanites. With rare exceptions, college dorms are the most expensive bacteria farms you will ever encounter. Northeastern students may pay upwards of one thousand dollars a month to live in rooms that may not be much larger than your average holding cell at a police station. Cases vary from school to school – Harvard dorms are very cozy – but even so. If we see dorms as money-makers, and not devices of utility, we will do violence to our ideals.

I took Motley at his word when he said that he wants to make this school into America’s elite urban public University. The “elite”ness here is informed by “urban”ness, which is to say that we won’t be serving the urban elite, who after all have private schools. Rather, we will be bringing an elite experience to urban students, who otherwise may not have always had consistent access to great teaching and great resources in the schools they came from. It’s a big project, and an exciting one. But if we’re going to compete with schools like UI-Chicago, we’re going to have to kick ass, and the way we do that is by planning carefully and well, and by creative thinking.

Addenda: Convocation Week was fun and all, but is it time to take the sign down?… If we rip the sliding doors out of the Campus Center and replace them with revolving doors, they won’t break every week. There’s some reason that won’t work, but a campus constantly battered with gale force wind shouldn’t have sliding doors facing the outside anywhere… I hear that Professor Maisano of the English Department has devised a way to ruin “Hamlet” for everybody. Bernardo, of course, begins the play by saying, “Who’s there?” If you yell, “Knock knock!” right as the curtains raise, everyone will think you’re hilarious and you won’t be removed by the ushers… The race between two silk worms ended in a tie.

About the Contributor
Dan Roche served as opinions editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2006-2007; 2007-2008; 2008-2009