UMass hackerama proliferates with new hire

By Shane Cronin

The bureaucrats at the University of Massachusetts are at it again. Administrators love to trumpet the precarious financial situation in which UMass finds itself, and yet they’ve managed to induct a new hack.

That’s right.

Student fees were raised last year by $1500 to close a $100 million budget gap, but there was somehow some extra cash in the till for Christopher Dunn: the new Director of Public and Constituent Relations. This summer Chancellor Holub hired Dunn to fill the brand new executive position at a salary of $78,500. In order to accommodate Mr. Dunn and another “gift fundraiser,” the University is shelling out 63,000 bucks a year for an office in downtown Boston’s financial district. The Chancellor notes, “by bringing someone with Chris Dunn’s experience and background to our reorganized team, we’ve got the right pieces in place to make real strides in Boston and to win greater support for the Commonwealth’s flagship campus.”

The Chancellor certainly has the “experience and background” part right. If there’s one thing Chris Dunn has, it’s experience. He’s spent the last several years working in the Office of the Counsel to the Senate, the Office of the Clerk of the Senate, as well as interning for U.S. Representative John F. Tierney. In other words, he’s fully integrated himself among Beacon Hill’s culture of hackerama.

The Boston Herald’s payroll database has Christopher Dunn listed as earning $63,000 as “Senate Default.” This means the new director gig comes with a $15,000 raise. The Chancellor’s costly decision to hire Dunn starkly contracts his rhetoric of last year when he chided opponents of the student fee increase who weren’t “…taking into account the fiscal realities.”

With all due respect, Chancellor, the fiscal reality is President Jack Wilson was awarded a 15 percent pay hike as students were shouldered with a $1500 fee increase. The fiscal reality is there are hundreds of people employed by the University with salaries well over $100,000. A few are making over half a million. In addition, according to a July Masslive.com article, the UMass system has completed or planned hundreds of millions of dollars in construction projects over the last several years including a $400 million science center in Worcester, a $70 million technologies center in Lowell, and $12.5 million dollar police station, which is set to open early next year. Furthermore, the Worcester project is one of the largest in New England. That doesn’t sound like financial straits to me. So why now, is there a need for Mr. Dunn?

Some would argue that Mr. Dunn is the perfect solution for hitting up the State House hacks in the legislature for more campus dough, being a “veteran” staffer and all. I, however, have a brilliant idea to address “administrative reorganization” (to borrow a phrase from the Chancellor) that requires no task force, advisory committee, joint- collaborative effort or bureaucracy of any kind. Eliminate all administrative positions that earn $200,000 or more as well as half of the positions earning $100,000 or more. Although we’ll miss our well paid empty suits, we’ll find a way to forge onward. I’m sure there are plenty of other universities out there in need of vices, deputies, and assistant associates.

UMass is certainly no stranger to hackerama. Just before Jack Wilson’s appointment as head honcho, the brother of one of the FBI’s most wanted, Billy Bulger, was President. His tenure was marred by secrecy and corruption. He resigned under intense pressure from Governor Mitt Romney in 2003. Bulger refused to fully cooperate with a Congressional investigation concerning his outlaw brother, James “Whitey” Bulger, who has been on the lam for over a decade. Despite his scandal-plagued departure, Bill Bulger enjoys an annual pension worth over $200,000, courtesy of the Massachusetts’ taxpayers.

When the economy bounces back, the $1500 fee increase won’t be revoked. Administrators know it will be yesterday’s news by the time they’re forced to close the next “budget gap.” Despite future bumps in the road, expensive construction will likely still be booming. Perhaps even the rotary by the Lederle Graduate Research Tower will be completed by then. You won’t see any more professors, but you’ll see a large influx of students. The President will continue to receive raises and lucrative benefits, and Chris Dunn’s director position in a cushy downtown Boston office will exist in perpetuity.

Shane Cronin is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]