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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Chancellor Collins and Justice Margaret Marshall Speak at UMass Boston 2006 Convocation

Photo by Jason Liu
Photo by Jason Liu

Chancellor Michael Collins might have started this year’s convocation with a historic reference, but he quickly turned his focus to the future of the university. In only his second convocation, Chancellor Collins conjured up the spirits from higher education’s past and put them to good work for UMass’ future during his speech on September 14th. The focus of his speech continually referred to the writings of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia. The historic themes provided a framework through which the chancellor could express his opinions and forthcoming plans. The speech was a brief overview of the chancellor’s plan to improve the university. One of his main points was increasing attendance at UMass Boston. This effort was aptly named “15 by 10” or “15,000 students by 2010.” He also laid out plans to enhance the academic environment at UMass-Boston; such as investing in graduate, doctoral and post doctoral work, improving the study abroad programs, and finding innovations for the betterment of teaching. The final part of this plan, and certainly the most striking and controversial, was an undetailed proposal to create housing for UMass students. “I believe we should study the establishment of living learning communities,” Collins said, “an effort that will be essential if we are to meet our goal of ’15 by 10.'” Chancellor Collins defended his housing plan, and subsequently brought up a few key ideas. “I reject the notion that our campus should not have any residential option because our students do not need or deserve this opportunity,” said Collins, “we are kidding ourselves if we think that our students do not search for housing because they inhabit our neighborhoods in large numbers. We should be able to provide safe housing, encourage civil discourse, and provide an environment conducive to study that some students may not find at home, and we should do all this while maintaining the access and excellence that is the hallmark of our student body. We should ensure that our campus culture embraces a more vigorous student engagement, both inside and outside the classroom.” But the future does not stop at the idyllic halting of cold winter UMass-Boston commutes. Classrooms, likewise, became the focus of attention for improving the school. “We must continue to evaluate the role that online education plays in our university and further develop our commitments to the use of technology in our educational offerings.” said Chancellor Collins “Moreover, I believe our current classrooms do not meet the standards of excellence our students and faculty deserve. I am committed to working with our faculty, staff, and university colleagues to create and to construct an Academic Classroom Complex that rivals this, our new Campus Center.” Also mentioned in these proposed improvements was the reworking of faculty course loads in order to fully enhance student education. “I believe we should study the course loads of our faculty, and appropriately adjust them to emphasize the importance of scholarship to our faculty and this university,” said Collins, “these actions are essential to assure that our students benefit from the finest teaching our great faculty can offer.” Unfortunately for part-time professors, these newly reworked course loads would mean a potential end to their necessity here at UMass. “While respecting the contributions of our part-time and retired faculty,” said Collins, “we should rely more on full-time faculty to teach our students. There is no easy method to decrease the complexity involved in such change, yet excellence as an imperative mandates our immediate evaluation of the situation.” Chancellor Collins was not granted the last word at this year’s convocation but was followed up by Justice Margaret H. Marshall, who serves as Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Justice Marshall, originally from South Africa, led off with an initial rebuttal to Chancellor Collins’ sense of history, with disapproval of his choice in the model of Thomas Jefferson, in favor of Massachusetts’ own John Adams. But this history did not prevent her from regaling the audience about the hardship she endured in witnessing apartheid South Africa, and the awe she found for life in the United States. “It was exhilarating and morally profound,” especially as seen through how much apartheid was a “distorting prison of terror and fear.” John Adams saw great praise from Justice Marshall’s speech, and she was particularly fond of his having written the Massachusetts constitution. She was especially inspired by his remarks that “all men are born free and equal” although she edited the quote to refer to both men and women.