UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Chancellor’s Luncheon

Billed as a chance for students to talk to the newly-inaugurated Chancellor Jo Ann Gora in a relaxed setting, the second of this semester’s series of “Chancellor’s Luncheons” took place last Monday, October 28 in the Chancellor’s conference room in the Quinn Administration building.

With less than a dozen students in attendance, the chancellor explained that the small size of the gathering was deliberate. She explained that when the luncheons were much larger, she felt as though she didn’t get to hear all that students had to say. Dean of Student Affairs Stephanie Janey was also present to hear students voice their concerns.

Some concerns brought up by students were the loss of funding of the UMass

Boston Early Learning Center located at Harbor Point, disappointment in some aspects of the Office of Student Life, and dissatisfaction with the Healey Library.

Mike Rhys, a graduate student in political science, brought the opinion about student life, “Sometimes I feel that it’s not just negligence, it’s almost intentional sabotage of the newspaper.” Rhys who is also the editor-in-chief of The Mass Media, was referring to the Office of Student Life when he made those remarks. He went on to say that it “feels like there’s no place to go to.” He also wondered why, in the operating budget of (?) $54,000 of $137,000 was carried forward from the last fiscal year when there were students who wanted to use that money for events on campus.

Nancy Derby, editor of The Watermark, voiced similar concerns about the lack of support she receives from the Office of Student Life. “Dean Janey, actually was very supportive,” Derby said later. “She approached us [Derby and Watermark volunteer Diane Costagliola] after the meeting and said ‘If you want to talk about student life, I’d love to set up an appointment with you.'” While Derby seemed happy that her point was well taken by the Dean, she wondered why Rhys, who had discussed similar issues, was not approached for a meeting also.

After the luncheon, via e-mail, Chancellor Gora said, “This luncheon was honestly unique because several of the speakers were quite explicit about their concerns regarding student life. However, in every other way, the lunch conversation was typical of these events.” The Chancellor also mentioned that she hears honest and passionate stories about why students chose to come to UMB. “I try to follow up on their concerns and learn more about their experience,” Gora explained. After an issue is brought up by a student at one of her luncheons she will ask herself, “Is it an isolated problem or systematic of a bigger, more knotty problem that should be addressed?” Gora also tries to let professors know, anonymously of course, when she hears praise from students about their programs and classes.

According to Derby, budget cuts seemed to be a main concern of the students present on October 28. The issues students discussed surrounding their budget concerns manifested in different ways, but still seemed to refer to losses of funding throughout the university. “Everyone really loved the programs they were in, they thought that UMass, as far as the education, was a positive experience.” But Derby also sensed that people were trying to be very balanced in the presence of the chancellor. “Instead of just saying, ‘this sucks it needs to be changed,’ they tried to cushion it.” Derby attributed the cushioning of remarks not to a deliberate intent to intimidate students by the chancellor, but rather a situation which was intimidating by default.

Diane Costagliola explained the situation by saying, “I know they’re trying to make it seem nice, like they’re spending money on their students and they care about us. But they set it up in such a way that feels so formal that it’s uncomfortable to sit there and talk candidly about issues.”

Amanda Ducharme, coordinator of the Queer Student Union, attended a luncheon last year. The luncheon she attended had a particular theme, it focused on student opinions regarding dormitories. Derby recalled that Chancellor Gora asked about dormitories during the most recent luncheon as well. Both Ducharme and Derby said that the majority of students present seemed supportive of the dorms project, but admitted that it was hard to tell if the response would have been different had it been someone other than the chancellor asking about it.

About the Contributor
Natalia Cooper served as news editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2001-2002; *2002-2003 *News writer Gin Dumcius filled in as news editor for Spring 2003 before returning to their writer position. Disclaimer: Years served is based on online database and may not detail entire service.