Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Holub

By Brandon Tower


As President of the Student Government Association, I know it’s not politically advantageous to give high praise to any administrator, let alone the head of the campus. When campaigning for SGA elections, we talk about the administration as the evil boogeyman of student life and “holding them accountable.” I know this because I did it. I didn’t do so disingenuously; there really are administrators who have very little interest in working with students and need to be held to account. But throughout my tenure working with the SGA, I’ve come to learn that most people in the administration are regular folks who didn’t get into the business of university affairs just to screw over students.

So what the hell was I doing saying that Chancellor Robert C. Holub is like Hogwarts headmaster Professor Albus Dumbledore in a video interview with The Collegian three weeks ago?

Now I’m not trying to make myself Harry Potter here, far from it, but to explain what I meant, I think it’s best understood in the context of JK Rowling’s famous character’s relationship with his school’s headmaster. (If you haven’t read “Harry Potter” you might as well check out now, but I have a feeling that won’t be a problem for most of us). If we ask, “Why did Harry look to Dumbledore for guidance and advice?” I think it’s fair to say part of it was practical. He respected his knowledge base and professional acumen. I also think Harry understood that Dumbledore told him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear, even if that was a hard truth. More than anything though, I think Harry felt a deeply rooted sense of security with Dumbledore at the helm; as long as he was the headmaster at Hogwarts, everything was going to be okay.

Now trust me when I say I’m not doing this to line myself up for a job. My plans for the fall are already set. When I listen to our chancellor talk about his vision for the University of Massachusetts, I imagine the feeling I get is similar to that of the fictional Harry Potter when he listened to Dumbledore. True, Holub has yet to send me off searching for horcruxes, so maybe the stakes aren’t quite as high. But the future of our school, the residual value of all our degrees and the $30 million budget shortfall to come are all serious issues. When I came to UMass as a freshman, this campus suffered from an inferiority complex, a condition exacerbated by the prestige of eastern rivals and dwindling state support. I almost felt as if I had to be ashamed to come here. Now I can say unequivocally that those days are gone, and I can trace when I started to really believe in the potential of UMass directly back to my first meetings with Holub.

The chancellor’s corner of the administration building is an oasis of Whitmore, and I’ll admit, I was a little intimidated. Working up the courage, I asked him every tough question I could think of about the budget, the direction of the school, the crumbling student union and of course a host of other student issues. Never once did he duck a question and he never spoke to me in a way that was condescending or patronizing. Yes, the budget situation was (and still is) ridiculously difficult. But what further endeared me to the chancellor was his refusal to make excuses for this university. But beyond that, it wasn’t just excuses for not maintaining the status quo; he wouldn’t accept excuses for this university not being exceptional. I’d always believed that students had the ideas that could make this university better. That’s why I ran for the office of SGA President in the first place. I have to say though, my faith in administrators outside of Student Affairs didn’t extend very far up until that point. After meeting with Holub, I really believed. I believed that as long as he was in charge, this university would always be strong, and more importantly, would always be getting stronger.

So now, I too play the expectations game. Expectations are powerful, as what is expected of us tends to dictate what we expect of ourselves. Chancellor Holub expects this university to be great, and so do I. We’re still going to have disagreements. I think we’re giving up too easily on pursuing state appropriations for UMass. Ultimately though, the same way Harry trusted Dumbledore is the same way I trust our Chancellor, and as long as he holds that position, I know UMass is moving in the right direction.

Brandon Tower is President of the Student Government Association. He can be reached at [email protected]