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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Some Things Are Not For Sale

I wanted to offer some follow up commentary to last week’s Reporter article regarding UMass Boston’s new $80 million state-of-the-art student center (New UMass Student Center Is Point’s Latest Addition). As the article correctly pointed out, I along with many others have been lobbying the University to name the new student center after the late George V. Kenneally, Jr. Kenneally represented the residents of Dorchester in the House as well as the Senate and was widely regarded as one of the most influential and effective legislators in the state. The crown jewel of his many achievements was, however, legislation that he co-sponsored in 1964 with his friend and colleague Robert Quinn to establish the University of Massachusetts at Boston. This bill established UMass Boston; a university that to this day affords the people of Greater Boston a higher education at a moderate price. UMass Boston has a long tradition of honoring deserving individuals by naming their facilities for them. I believe, as many do, that UMass Boston should similarly recognize the contributions of George V. Kenneally Jr. to UMass Boston and Dorchester by naming the new student center after him.

In the recent Reporter story, UMass Boston Chancellor Jo Ann Gora offered several explanations as to why she and UMass Boston were unable to honor Senator Kenneally’s memory by naming the student center after him. I feel compelled to respond to her assertions and offer the following counterpoints to her points.

Gora: “We need to name it after a donor,” Gora said without apology, citing a trustee policy that major campus developments must honor financial benefactors.

Rebuttal: This assertion would be much easier to believe if UMass Boston didn’t have a demonstrated history of flexibility with their “trustee policy.” As recently as last year, UMass approved and Chancellor Gora led the charge to construct dorms at the campus. This is clearly a deviation from the school’s original mission statement, which said “The University of Massachusetts at Boston will remain a commuter institution, with a strong commitment to encouraging the use of mass transit rather than automobiles.”

Furthermore, How does soliciting the naming rights for the new student center “honor financial benefactors” per the Trustees policy? That would be like saying the Kraft Family honored Gillette by naming the stadium in Foxboro after them. Gillette paid to have their name on the stadium, and honor had nothing to do with it. I fully appreciate the fact that University is attempting to recoup some of the $ 80 million dollars of taxpayer’s money that was used in constructing the new center. However UMass has always chosen to name their buildings after people who contributed to society with their deeds not their dollars. (Wheatley, McCormack, Clark & Quinn)

The message is clear on both counts. UMass policy is flexible when it is to their benefit to be so, but not, in this case, when it would allow a local individual whose contributions to Dorchester and UMass are significant, but are not of a monetary nature. And, it is also clear that UMass is now more concerned with fundraising than they are with continuing to honor those individuals who have made important, yet not financial, contributions to the school.

Gora: “The spaces are all very open, very transparent,” said UMass-Boston Chancellor Jo Ann Gora, “and the idea is to encourage interaction and communication.”

Rebuttal: The University should take a lesson from their new edifice.

Gora: “In a time when the state is supporting us less and less, we need to act more as private institutions do”

Rebuttal: Brace yourself…. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the University of Massachusetts at Boston is NOT a private institution like Boston College or Boston University – it is a public institution funded, in part, by taxpayers. I am cognizant that this fact vexes many on the point, and has become quite a stumbling block for them in recent years. We realize that in this unpleasant fiscal climate that our state currently finds itself any attempt to raise funds appears sensible. However I would argue that as puritanical as it sounds, some things should not be for sale…. ever! A substantial donation that prompted and facilitated construction is a considerably different scenario than that of selling the Centers “naming rights.” What if in ten years a higher bidder appears? Who remembers the old Boston Garden, happily named so for six decades. Sadly in today’s sell everything society the Garden gave way to a new building and the Fleet Center was born, and died just as quickly, welcome the Bank of America Center…. aaahhh nostalgia. Maybe UMass could use a chalkboard to write in the highest bidders name, that way in the advent of a higher bidder a simple eraser would do the trick.

As the Reporter succinctly worded it in the article “even the most ardent supporters of a Kenneally Center acknowledge that the university’s position appears immovable.” Sadly this appears to be true, the University under Chancellor Gora’s leadership has opted for money over legacy. I will add the caveat however that the name of George V. Kenneally, Jr. will last a lot longer than their solicited money will. Also since our attempt to honor Mr. Kenneally has lost out to the almighty dollar we would like to amend our request. We call on the Chancellor and Board of Trustees to immediately apply the funds obtained from the “sale” of the student center’s naming rights to be used to offset the fees currently imposed on the students of UMass. This would help the University to stay true to at least a portion of their original mission statement, by providing relief to students that are “limited by income.”

The University of Massachusetts at Boston valiantly strives to provide a high quality and affordable education to the residents of greater Boston. It is my sincere wish that it continues to be a vibrant viable tool for generations to come. However as the German philosopher Nietzsche said, “Man … cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past: however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him”. New Englanders and Bostonians in particular are proud of our heritage; we pay homage to our history with monuments and various honors that help all to remember our proud moments past and those that helped forge our future.

Philip J. Carver is a lifelong Dorchester resident and neighborhood activist.