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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

The Future of UMass Boston

The Future of UMass Boston

In Chancellor Collins’ convocation address at the start of the 2006-2007 school year, he spoke of improving the university and unveiled the formation of a Strategic Planning Task Force, which would serve as the body to study and suggest changes that could be made.

Since Collins’ speech, subcommittees have formed to address various parts of education on campus. Various suggestions for improvement have been made, ranging from building student housing to reducing the faculty-to-student ratio.

The ultimate objective of the Strategic Task Force is to make UMass Boston a better place to receive a higher education. But as students obtain that higher education the committee realizes the importance of student life in that process. For that reason, the Student Life sub-committee is dedicated to expanding the extracurricular experience.

The committee hopes to achieve “a vibrant and multifaceted coordination of programs, services, activities, and organizations designed to engage students as well as other members of the University community… The building of this experience outside of the classroom will provide value added education and will positively impact academic achievement and graduation.”

An integral part of Student Life at most other Massachusetts state universities is on-campus dormitories. The Student Life Subcommittee’s detailed interim report states as a necessity “on campus housing and off campus housing resources, consistent with the identified need of current and prospective University of Massachusetts Boston students.”

They have laid out the need for not only the physical existence of dorms on campus but that they are integrated into the surrounding areas. “The provision of housing and housing resources will strongly consider the role of the University as a valued neighbor in Dorchester at large and on the Columbia Point peninsula specifically.”

Although the implementation of a dormitory system into the UMass Boston campus may seem inevitable, many question the ways in which it will change the fabric of current university life. As UMass Boston is currently a commuter school-where it is accepted and comfortable for students of all ages to combine jobs and families with school-that aspect may change with an on-campus residential community.

With a dormitory lifestyle on campus, many consider that UMass Boston would begin attracting mostly recent high school graduates looking for the typical college atmosphere. International student and junior Anthropology major Harrison Gonzaluz opposes the idea of dorms on the campus.

“I don’t like the idea at all,” Gonzaluz said. “I think this is a commuter school and it should stay that way. Something as simple as parking lots are a mess here right now, never mind building dormitories in the area.”

Conversely, there are also students support the Task Force’s goals and recommendations for dorms on campus. Many feel it would be a great idea, and are excited about the positive changes that can come with dorms. Dianna Colon, a junior and English major said, “It would be good if we had dorms-as long as prices can stay down.”

Part of the appeal of UMass Boston is the relatively low tuition, and Colon suspects that it could potentially rise if funds were required to support a live-in campus.

While Colon fully supports the idea of dorms at UMass Boston, she acknowledged that such a change would attract younger students to the university.

“There will be younger kids,” she said. “They think college is a party, especially when they are living there away from their homes. But then, after a while, they realize there is work to be done.”

The Enrolment and Financial Aid subcommittee overtly states that it hopes to attract more students right out of high school. Currently, 39 percent of students come directly from high school; they hope to raise that to 50 percent. They also state as a goal to increase enrolment to 15,000 by 2010, a goal they feel can only be met by building dormitories.

The Academic subcommittee focused their report on improving academic support programs for students, infrastructural changes, and faculty support. They recognize the tremendous importance of updated and modern technology in laboratories, classrooms, library, and studio areas in order for the faculty to do their jobs and for students to get the most out of their education.

The future physical space of UMass Boston is the Master Plan Committee’s responsibility and is of utmost importance as the success of all other committees is dependent on the physical space they can occupy.

The Master Plan aims to alter the existing “fortress-like nature” of certain buildings around campus and create more open spaces both inside and out of those facilities. The committee is also recommending integrating UMass Boston into the broader landscape of Columbia Point, perhaps by obtaining land on Mount Vernon St. This would potentially connect the UMass Boston campus with the larger community. Another goal of the committee is to establish a shared space between students and the existing neighbouring spaces, such as the State Archives and JFK Library.

The Master Plan sub-committee is currently working hard with professional developers to realistically put plans in place for the Spring 2007 report. But regardless of the committee’s own dedication to the project, their interim report sites that “Broad participation and support of the Campus Master Plan is necessary if the University is to create a state of the art campus and achieve its strategic goals and aspirations.”

In addition to the Student Life, Academic, Enrolment and Financial Aid and Master Plan subcommittees, the Research and Graduate Studies and the External Relations sub-committees are also dedicated to shaping the future of UMass Boston. Each of the committees’ interim reports can be found on the UMass Boston homepage, along with Chancellor Collins’ Convocation address. Chancellor Collins predicts that a combined final Strategic Planning Task Force Report is expected to be out on June 30.