Dateline Downtown

Dateline: Downtown

Dateline: Downtown

Dan Roche

Poring over the reconstruction plans for our school, one finds several woeful laughers. Did you know that in some areas of the Science Building, corridor floors measure three feet and nine inches across, while the walls are six feet apart? Add a swirly carpet and a few mirrors and it’s like a funhouse. The substructure is so corroded you can probably punch a hole through some pipes with your fist. Take a quick peek at the underside of the Healey steps next time you pass by for a representative impression of how our school’s physical state, thirty years after construction. You can read about how laughably crooked Boston was a generation ago, but it’s these details that really bring it home.

Last week, Amanda Huff outlined the emerging site plan for the rebuilding project our school will undergo in the next decade and more. Local architectural firm Chan Krieger Sieniewicz was chosen to oversee the operation. A quick glance at their website yields, hoo boy, lots of awards they’ve won over the years, and it is nice to think the group that helped Roslindale Square arise from the rubble in the early ’90s has been slated to help our school do likewise.

Longtime city residents will recall Rozzie Square in the ’80s, when it was a dust bowl full of Greek thugs and stray cats. Now, Roslindale Village (ahem!) is a nice place to visit and live. It’s green, open space lined with bustling small business storefronts. Our school can be likewise rehabilitated. The potential is there. It should be, could be, would have been an impressive presence set on the waterfront, with our Jesuit neighbors providing an august, crimson backdrop. If it had been constructed in another city at another time, under the auspices of another, less outrageously corrupt, state legislature, we’d have had pretty views of the waterfront from all sorts of places, not just the Campus Center and the smoker porches along Wheatley. 175 acres is a lot of land. A good architect would have found a way not to, er, box us into a crater. As it stands our school’s physical layout is practical for, perhaps, holding off sea raiders camped on George’s Island, but not our present-day purposes, as every trek across the desolate expanse between Quinn and the Science Building makes abundantly clear.

There is an imposing mass of position papers, mission statements, initiatives, all geared toward bringing the school toward the perceived future of the Urban Mission. We should bear in mind how the physical layout of the school affects our self-image, and plan accordingly.

Many students will be willing to make sacrifices of time and convenience for a series of benefits that might not even appear until well after they have graduated. The thing about UMass Boston is that many of us have been given a second chance in life because of it, opportunities to go back to school after we’ve dropped out or raised families, and are simply thrilled to have the opportunity to study with our faculty. That capital is not limitless, but still, knowing that our school has problems that the current administration has nothing to do with does buy everyone involved some time. Competent, hardworking administrators are all we need..