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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

DNC Ends at UMB

Four years after the presidential debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush came to UMass Boston, the university was again hoisted onto the national stage as it hosted US Senator John F. Kerry’s Pops concert, capping more than a week’s worth of Democratic National Convention-related events on campus.

An estimated 20,000 people attended the concert and fireworks show, intended as a thank-you to Boston from Kerry (D-MA), who after accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, arrived at the Campus Center with his running mate US Senator John Edwards (D-NC) and their respective wives.

The show was originally scheduled for the Esplanade on the Charles River, but the permit was denied by the state due to security concerns. Soon after UMass was selected as a site, the event’s producer quit, saying he didn’t get the money needed to cover the expenses, so a new producer came on board.

Despite the setbacks and a small time frame that sent university officials scrambling, the event was billed as a success in the end.

“It was an amazing thing to be part of and watch,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor of Community Relations Gail Hobin. “The Esplanade had nothing on us.”

University administration officials had to prepare the space and pull it off internally, while Boston 2004 and the production company got the fireworks and worked with the Pops.

“They would say to us, ‘they’re going to be building a stage, [and] the Pops need a changing room,'” said Hobin.

A committee of people from all over campus–experts in each area like parking and public safety–was quickly assembled, some of them the same individuals from the 2000 presidential debates. Back then, they had four months to prepare for 10,000 people. This time, they had less than two weeks and expected 20,000 people.

“When you think about the amount of time we had to plan, all the departments came together and did an outstanding job,” said Patrick Mulligan, director of Parking and Transportation.

Security was at about the same level as at the 2000 debates, according to university officials, who worked with the Secret Service to shut down and sweep the Campus Center, and screen the persons coming onto the circular front lawn where the concert was held. Public Safety also called in police officers from other campuses.

Tickets were distributed throughout the community: in Dorchester, South Boston, Roxbury, and on-campus at Customer Services, which extended its normal hours for the purpose.

Steps were taken to disrupt classes as little as possible. “Our academic mission and many educational activities were pursued with barely a trace of inconvenience and the free concert tickets to affected students were intended to ameliorate that trace,” said Ellen O’Connor, vice chancellor for administration and finance.

CCDE students, who were able to obtain tickets through Customer Service, were able to park at B.C. High. The majority of attendees parked at the Bayside Expo Center, took the T, or walked. Ninety percent of the people were shuttled in and out, with the crowd getting back to the T station after the show in 48 minutes, according to Mulligan.

O’Connor, in an e-mail, pointed to the event as showing that UMass Boston is a “large urban research university which [includes] a marvelous new student building and outdoor commons, and we are becoming a venue of choice.”

On top of the Pops concert, the Democratic Governors’ Association held a conference and a lobster fest that same week, and the North Carolina delegation also held festivities of their own.

The second largest event was the Boston Social Forum (BSF), described in The Village Voice as a “left-wing hootenanny,” and attended by over 3,000 people. Danny Glover, who was recently arrested at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. for protesting the ongoing genocide in the African country, spoke, as did former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and British musician Billy Bragg delivered a benefit concert as well.

“Just walking through the plaza of the university was a head-rush of radical activity, with tables stacked with books, Socialists and Maoists hawking their newspapers, vendors selling Nicaraguan crafts and Palestinian olive oil, rock bands cranking out tunes, and everywhere people engaged in conversation,” wrote Michael Blanding for In These Times, a biweekly leftist magazine.

Several UMass professors participated in workshops, and were involved with the planning for the BSF.

“One of the problems of planning is you don’t get the full experience,” said Marilyn Frankenstein, professor at the College of Public and Community Service, which is now billing itself as “Boston’s Other Social Forum.” “My one critique,” said Frankenstein, “would be that there was too much going on.”

Instead of just protesting, the BSF presented its own alternative, a different vision of how the world could be, she said, adding, “Everybody I spoke to said they had a good time.”

But at the end of the week, the Pops concert appeared to steal the show.

“While the Boston Social Forum… was a year in the planning, the Concert on the Bay was a two week crash course in collaborating with very new and ‘differently missioned’ partners, like the Secret Service and Boston 2004,” said O’Connor.

“It was great for Dorchester,” said Hobin. “It was fabulous for UMass Boston, but it was great for this community.”