UMass deserves better

By Dan Glaun

This is supposed to be my senior column. I should be in full-on reminiscence mode, waxing nostalgic about the University of Massachusetts, the Collegian, the experiences I’ve had over the last four years in Amherst.

I am not very interested in doing that.

What I am interested in doing, now that my last news article for the Collegian is in the can, and I can now abandon all pretense of journalistic objectivity, is describing the staggering disregard that this UMass administration has demonstrated for the student body over the course of this past year.

To preface this, there are many lovely people in the ranks of the UMass administration, and I’ve enjoyed working with them as a news writer over the last few months. Particular credit goes to Ed Blaguszewski of the University’s news office, who has fielded a wealth of questions from me and the rest of the Collegian staff, often at unprofessionally late hours. Too often, however, the administration has blatantly and unrepentantly disrespected students, both through its actions and its incredible resistance to seeking student input prior to those actions.

To put it simply, it seems like getting administrators to consult with students when making major changes to campus life has been akin to pulling teeth sans anesthetic.

The record is clear and damning. Residential Life put a solicitation policy in the Code of Student Conduct without consulting students, and formed a committee to review the decision after protest. UMass planned to cut the UHS pharmacy and lab services without student consultation, and formed a review committee after yet more protest. Residential Life announced plans to cut all peer mentor positions without consulting students, and, once again, formed a committee after student outcry.

It’s a pattern, and a seriously troubling one. UMass makes decisions that have serious consequences for students without any legitimate effort to hear student voices; there’s a backlash, and the administration backtracks. It’s a pattern of disrespect–not just for students, but for the rules that the University is obligated to follow.

According to the Wellman Document, the UMass Board of Trustees statement on University governance, “The President, in concert with the Chancellors, will ensure that all appropriate components of the University have the opportunity to make recommendations prior to the establishment of policy.”

This administration has utterly failed to do that.

The University has also been accused of violating the United States Constitution and a litany of state laws in a series of lawsuits and threatened legal actions. The American Civil Liberties Union declared its solicitation policy a violation of the First Amendment; UMass student Cullen Roe sued for violations of due process of law following his summary expulsion after the Super Bowl riots in Southwest Residential Area; UMass police officers sued the UMPD and University administrators for violations of wiretap law when audio surveillance equipment was found throughout the new police station. It seems as though some of the policy makers at this school are either ignorant of the law or simply do not consider it when making decisions.

I was never involved in student government during my time at UMass, or, until my time at the Collegian, particularly aware of policy changes until they directly affected me. I was pretty cynical and definitely apathetic about the workings of this school. My most involved interactions with the administration had to do with switching classes, which was fodder for jokes among friends about navigating the barren hellscape of the UMass bureaucracy, but not the subject of serious thought or discussion.

Working on these stories over the last semester, however, has made me care, and it’s made me angry. I love this school. I’ve learned a lot here; I’ve changed as a person in ways that I think and hope are for the better; and I’ve met people who will mean something to me long after I graduate. I want better for UMass, and I hope that the incoming Chancellor will be able to provide it.

My experiences working here have led me to genuinely give a crap. Outrage doesn’t wear well on me, but I have to give this job credit for making me try it on in the first place. In the end, that’s what the Collegian has meant for me.

Well, that and being a legitimate resume stuffer. Let’s go with the sentimental angle, though.

Dan Glaun was an Assistant News Editor. He can be reached at [email protected].