Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Kumble Subbaswamy makes first visit to UMass as chancellor elect

Maria Uminski/Collegian

During his first visit to the University of Massachusetts after being named the next chancellor, Kumble Subbaswamy promised to open new lines of communication with students and help to control rising costs.

In a press conference, Subbaswamy – who currently serves as the provost of the University of Kentucky – talked about a range of topics including the UMass image, the transition and the affordability of higher education.

“My job as chancellor is to make sure that the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus realizes its full potential in meeting the aspirations and expectations of the different stakeholders,” said Subbaswamy.

Subbaswamy discussed the importance of students in the University system, noting that they are “the largest component” of the school.

Therefore, Subbaswamy hopes to open new pathways of communications between the student and himself, when he assumes the chancellor position at a date that has yet to be negotiated, but will, according to Subbaswamy, occur by July 1.

“One of the things I offered to them [students] is that they suggest the means of communication that they think would work best with the chancellor. Apart from the formal channels that exist – various committee representation[s], the student body government the Student Government Association,” he said. “Because apparently those communication channels were not sufficient to establish the kind of trust and communication that was necessary to avoid of some of the issues or at least repair from where some of those issues.”

In addition to potentially using social media outlets, Subbaswamy suggested potentially having eat-lunch-with-the-chancellor days.

He also touched on how he would handle reaction to events such as the most recent Super Bowl disturbances, where approximately 1,500 rowdy students gathered in Southwest Residential Area following the New England Patriots’ loss to the New York Giants.

Subbaswamy does not think that incidents such as the disturbance “can ever be completely eliminated” on a campus with thousands of adolescents learning how to live on their own for the first time. But, he thinks the line needs to be clearly drawn.

“Drawing the line appropriately is something that has to be a part of the growing up and part of the conversation with the student groups,” he said. “In that sense I think it that dialogue about what is acceptable and what it not acceptable [is important].”

Subbaswamy talked about the rising cost of the price of education as fee hikes have required students to pay more for their education.

During the press conference, UMass President Robert Caret said students are now paying for 55 percent of their education. A decade ago, students were paying 37 percent, according to Caret.

Subbaswamy hopes to bring it back to a 50-50 split between students and the state. To do this, the chancellor-elect said he would make fundraising a priority and work to create a new business model for higher education.

“The runaway costs are causing us to reexamine how we do business,” said Subbaswamy.

Subbaswamy – who has worked at the flagship school of several public systems – said that it was difficult to keep education affordable, unless some taxpayers are helping to pay the bill.

“I think the state investment of public higher education must continue,” said Subbaswamy. “Certainly as the cost of private education keeps going higher and higher we will have a large sector of society left out of higher education and therefore [left out of] participating in economic prosperity if public education is not affordable while being of high quality.”

In order to combat the rising costs of education, Subbaswamy said, “We will have to be more innovative, more productive, we will have to rely more on philanthropic support and therefore all of those movements are things I will be focusing on.”

Subbaswamy said the first thing he will do when he arrives at UMass is begin to learn who the players are and ingratiate himself into University life and politics so that during the turnover fundraising campaigns, such as the UMass Amherst Campaign, do not lose momentum.

Subbaswamy said he does not know when his next visit to the campus will be, as he is still serving as the provost at the University of Kentucky, but that he suspects his visits will become more frequent as he prepares to take over for Chancellor Robert Holub, whose contract was not renewed by the University.

“I do have a full-time job already,” Subbaswamy quipped.

Subbaswamy said that he will focus his attention more fully on UMass after the University of Kentucky commencement during the first week of May.

“I look forward to learning more and more about both the campus and the Commonwealth and becoming a full time player by the time I start here,” he said.

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected].


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    BudApr 3, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    “Ingratiate” himself into university life? Odd word. He doesn’t really mean to suck up to campus life and politics, or hope to make himself feel loved, does he? Immerse himself in university life, perhaps.