Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

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

Chancellor Subbaswamy, do you read the Daily Collegian?

UMass administration needs to listen to student’s voice to address key concerns
Nina Walat / Daily Collegian.

Being chancellor of a large institution like the University of Massachusetts can be difficult. The responsibilities are immense. The stakes are high and the stakeholders that are invested in your work, the thousands of students and faculty you must please, can seem immeasurable. While the list of duties a chancellor has might be long, one would assume that tending to the concerns of the student body would be top of mind. After all, without the students, is there even a UMass?

That’s why student newspapers like the Massachusetts Daily Collegian exist: to provide an outlet for the student body to make its voices heard, not just to its peers but to the people who have the power to make meaningful change in the campus community. Dozens of columns have been written by UMass students about what they feel are important issues that need to be addressed, whether it be the need for more size-inclusive UMass apparel, the lack of adequate cooking space in residential halls, the high cost of tuition, the issues with our public transportation or an absence of sufficient transgender health care at University Health Services.

Yet, regarding all these issues and more, we get radio silence from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy in return. Sure, there’s the occasional empathetic email to the student body when something truly egregious happens, but there is no consistent communication between UMass administration and the community at large about these kitchen table issues that affect so many people.

This begs the obvious question: does Chancellor Subbaswamy read the Daily Collegian? If he did, there should be no shortage of acknowledgement from him about the myriad concerns on the minds of the student population. I understand that being a chancellor requires dealing with problems that might cast a shadow on these comparatively trivial issues. However, Subbaswamy has led UMass for over a decade, and he hasn’t penned a single letter to the editor in the Collegian. I can count the number of interviews the chancellor has done with the paper on one hand. Beyond the occasional email, the plight of the UMass community goes unrecognized by one of the main people with the power to rectify it.

Now, I have no way of truly discovering whether Subbaswamy includes the white and maroon typeface of the Daily Collegian in his morning routine. What I do know is that incoming Chancellor Javier Reyes certainly doesn’t. When asked at his introductory press conference about the large group of students who haven’t been able to obtain housing, Reyes “explained that he needed to understand the problem more cohesively before making decisions.” Really? 900 students don’t have housing for next year – is there anything else to understand? Maybe if incoming Chancellor Reyes read one of our many stories from our columnists about the crisis, he would gain this elusive understanding he desires.

I hope Chancellors Subbaswamy and Reyes can prove me wrong, and I’d love to see letters to the editor from each of them: Subbaswamy with his farewells and Reyes with his greetings. I don’t feel that I am asking a lot from them; anyone can write a column for the Op/Ed section, and I’m positive they would each have a lot to talk about. We should be encouraging regular communication between the administration and the campus community over broad platforms. Conversations are key to discussing problems and facilitating solutions. Think of it as akin to President Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats with a troubled nation during twin crises, assuring the American public and presenting his ideas and visions for the future.

The leader of an academic institution has a responsibility to address the concerns of its students above all else. Why do we treat Subbaswamy and Reyes like they are on the top floor of a skyscraper, unable to be reached or conversed with? The vehicle for conversation is staring us – and them – right in the face. If our current, incoming and any future chancellors want to finally create a meaningful dialogue between UMass administration and the student body, directly addressing their responses in a column published in the Collegian every semester would be a great start. Pick up those pens and let’s hear your voices, chancellors. We’ll be here when you’re ready.

Luke Halpern can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @lukehalpern.

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