Letter: Chancellor Subbaswamy should acknowledge that his reopening plan was a failure

A change in leadership at UMass Amherst would be the best thing for the University and for the Commonwealth at this time

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By Letter Contributor

I am writing to call attention to the attempt by UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy to move the goalposts surrounding the question of whether the University of Massachusetts Spring 2021 reopening was successful or unsuccessful.

In a recent interview with Will Katcher of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, the Chancellor was asked, “If the semester were ending today — in the context of what we’ve seen over the previous seven weeks — would you consider it a successful return to campus?”

To this, the Chancellor replied, “Look, the measure of success is that people remain largely healthy, and they complete their academic goals about making advances towards their degrees. And so, by those definitions, yes, I would definitely say that it would be successful to finish today.”

Yet, on January 28, at a UMass Amherst Faculty Senate meeting, Subbaswamy set entirely different goalposts to define success or failure. The Chancellor said, “Again, all preparations have been done. . . and success will be defined as everything working according to plan: That is no deviation from our face-to-face classes, no need for lockdowns because of outbreaks.” He added, “fingers crossed…”

Subbaswamy should acknowledge that the reopening was a failure by his own clearly stated standards. It wasn’t a minor failure within a larger set of successes. It was a failure of leadership.

The blame cannot just be shifted to irresponsible students or to some sort of decentralized, committee-based, deliberative process that supposedly took place within UMass. The Chancellor should accept responsibility because it was he who acted irresponsibly.

The reopening was not a success. The reopening was a failure by the Chancellor’s own standards.

I strongly believe that a change in leadership at UMass Amherst would be the best thing for the University and for the Commonwealth at this time.

David George Morin

M.A. in English, Class of 2019