Dateline Downtown

Dateline: Downtown

Dateline: Downtown

Dan Roche

I recently mentioned how Stephen Tocco, erstwhile Chairman of the Umass board of directors, was holding fast against Governor Patrick’s attempts to dislodge him from power and, well, it looks like Patrick won. The Globe reports that on November 28th, Tocco Bandito announced his intention to step down from his post at the end of the year. Tocco, it seems, had grown weary of the extended contretemps with the administration and decided finally to bow out. “The ongoing discussion and related anxiety over the Chairman question has been a distraction long enough,” he said, though the report relates that reasons were still unclear as to why the Patrick administration wanted to oust Tocco only to replace him with another Romney appointee. Something about how, in order to govern well, control had to be firmly in the hands of the State House as presently constituted, and presumably not at the behest of past appointees of other governors.

It’s fine if you’re going to stack the deck, FDR-style, I suppose, but what is it that Tocco and the Governor are at loggerheads over? Yes, Tocco is a Romney appointee, but he’s hardly a wing nut; part of the reason he stayed on the board as long as he did was partially because of favor he carried with other, Democratic-leaning, members. And, as I mentioned, Patrick plans on replacing him with another Romney man, Robert Manning, the current board vice chairman. So it’s not just politics. Assuming Patrick doesn’t have some sinister, submerged end in plan, and that it is simply about control, there must be an issue or issues that are sticking points between the two camps that are not as much a concern with Manning. Something, probably, having to do with the future of our beleaguered system. What could it be?…

The University, also, released a report last month from a planning committee on student affairs. It outlined the strategic plan for our school’s reconstruction going forward, named various professors to tenure, and released the Fall ’07 enrollment report. The strategic plan is too complex to go into on these pages, and can be looked at in-depth on the (intermittently updated) section of the UMB homepage devoted to it.

In brief, it outlines four primary goals for the immediate future and beyond: “Increase student access, engagement, and success,” attract and keep good faculty now and later, fix the physical layout of the school, and “enhance campus-community engagement through improved operational structures.” The first has to do with increasing enrollment (to 15,000 by 2010) and (!!!) new academic buildings. I’m skeptical of increasing enrollment in a time when several buildings will be closed for construction, but it comes down to money.

Money we’ll need for the other objectives on the table, and this includes the 25-year facilities plan. It seems also that the Motley administration has been thinking hard about the urban mission. The report outlines the need to stay involved with our neighbors and “focusing on high-quality, high impact projects, rather than diffusing our energy and attention among many projects.” Along these lines, it’s obvious that we recruit and will continue to recruit primarily from our city’s public schools. Maybe this means a partnership with one or more of the local pilot schools to allow high school honor students to participate in college classes, like the Fenway model before they moved from Bunker Hill. Who knows? It’s a time of lots of ideas, and more committees and reports than anyone can keep track of.

…An interesting statistic the Fall admissions report shows is that minority student enrollment is dipping. There was a slight drop of 1.8% from the 05-06 period, even as enrollment increased 2.6%…The Mass Media archive is online. So far it runs from the paper’s inception in 1966 to the early ’90s, but in future months it should include more recent entries, when some of the fabulous disasters of the last decade should be available for grimly fascinated viewing. The address is…Looks like the parking lot is done…Put this down and study. Finals week aproacheth!