UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media


The Student Senate voted last week to send a letter to Chancellor Collins endorsing the idea of dorms. Welcome news, most likely, as Collins is the latest in a string of chancellors to be dorm fanciers. The surrounding Dorchester community, however, has long opposed dorms. This pits a school whose stated aim is to serve the city at odds with its city neighbors.

Dorms are an interesting idea. There is space enough, certainly, on campus, which has vast and empty swaths reminiscent of City Hall Plaza. If, however, they serve to “distance the school from its mission of providing low-cost education to Boston-area residents” as a 2001 issue of The Campus Chronicle at our Amherst sister school maintains, then no thanks. The Boston area already has several schools that attract the fresh-faced high school valedictorians and bocce prodigies. The students of the upper middle class are well served in Boston. What about the rest of us?

UMass Boston is here to serve the residents of the city and those who want to be close to the city. And people who fell to Earth and landed here. If the driving concept behind dorms is to give those people a taste of the four-year, private college in the Berkshires experience, it’s probably not going to work out like that. More likely is that the dorm inhabitants will be suburban students composing a separate sphere from those commuting from Somerville and Brighton and Mattapan.

UMass as it is presently constituted is a great intermediary for people who aren’t satisfied by community college and can’t pay for a private college. This comprises wide swaths of the city’s life, of people who want to educate themselves and better their station but who do not have infinite resources at hand. Professors teach here because they love having people from Haiti and Russia- people with kids at home who work two jobs. Will they be well served by something resembling the B.U. buyout of Kenmore Square coming here?

One opportunity that we have that a school like Northeastern (which started out with the same general purpose, to serve the city) does not is that we have land to expand on. It’s an exciting prospect, in a way. But to build the school needs funds, which dorms bring. There could be a way for conscientious planning to build dorms (and commercial space) and improved school facilities without shafting the biochem major from Southie who pulls down a nighttime security shift. If new dorms will help bring the school to the city, build them, sure. If it’s just going to build another college castle town distinct from its surroundings, no thanks.