Chancellor Holub addresses the future in first Convocation speech

By Nick Bush

In his first speech to faculty and students after his official installation as University of Massachusetts Chancellor, Robert Holub addressed how the school plans on rectifying current budget issues while continuing its push to become a top national public research institution. The few hundred in attendance for Friday’s Convocation ceremony witnessed a new era of administrative leadership officially beginning for the university, as Holub outlined his plans for generating new revenue to offset future reductions when stimulus funding runs out in two years.

Chancellor Robert Holub shakes hands after being installed during Friday's Convocation ceremonies at the Campus Center Auditorium.
Chancellor Robert Holub shakes hands after being installed during Friday's Convocation ceremonies at the Campus Center Auditorium.

Holub noted some of the brighter aspects of the university’s current situation before turning his attention to the budget. He remarked that “although many of you labor patiently in facilities that are sub-standard and in desperate need of improvement or replacement, we have made enormous progress on facilities during the past year,” noting the campus renovations at Skinner Hall, the Studio Arts building, the Integrated Sciences Building and the new power plant, amongst others.

Holub also pointed out that for the second year in a row, UMass is welcoming its most academically accomplished freshman class, and that the average GPAs of transfer and Commonwealth College students have never been higher.

“In sum,” said Holub, “we’ve never been blessed with the caliber of students that we find attending our campus today.”

Holub did not shy away from the difficulties UMass is facing at the moment, however, noting the effect that the economic recession has had on the university’s state funding.

“What I tell legislators regularly is that we are not asking for a handout or for charity; we believe that we are a sound investment for the state and its citizens, and we have the data to prove it,” said Holub. “But past experience tells me that if we focus solely on the legislature and the executive branch, hoping for adequate funding, we will be disappointed … If we depend on hope, all we’ll get is ‘all we ever got.’”

Instead of focusing on continuing state or federal support to balance the budget when the stimulus money runs out, Holub said he is intent on developing additional revenue sources, noting that “every dollar we receive in additional revenue means one less dollar that we have to eliminate in budget reductions.”

According to Holub’s remarks, this additional revenue could come from a higher ratio of out-of-state students, new five-year masters programs and increasing the school’s focus on revenue-generating summer session and continuing professional education classes.

Chancellor Holub seemed at his most comfortable yet since assuming the helm, at many points in his speech challenging students and faculty to rise above their pre-conceived notions of what the university can achieve.

“We have the future of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in our hands; we control our own destiny, and we have an obligation to the past and a responsibility to the future,” he said. “We could choose to wallow in the worst of times, lament our misfortune, and seek to blame others and each other for this fate … The alternative is that we reinvent ourselves, breaking out of familiar patterns, and find ways to cope with our needs and to move forward together.”