Sophomore Journalism Major
The next UMass president needs to be aware of a multitude of issues concerning the past, present and future of this university. Jack M. Wilson has been president since 2003 and will wrap up his term halfway through 2011. That is a nearly seven year presidency for someone who has done less of a job pushing the campus to greatness and more nagging the other campuses in the UMass system to come together as one.
Wilson’s one university plan has been widely criticized for being too privatized – moving too far away from the traditional reliance as a state funded institution. UMass’ $456 million budget is state money. Of that, $40 million is one time stimulus money. Moreover, right now, only 25 percent of UMass Amherst’s revenue is from the state, that is down 15 percent from 10 years ago. Funding for the system has been as low as it has been since 2000.
A more hostile issue is that of the tenured-track faculty. Amherst has cut over 200 positions over the past two decades and they now employ less tenured faculty (972) than UConn (1,286), which has 3,000 less undergraduates. In perspective, the English department has been cut from 100 professors down to an abysmal 43.
Jack Wilson has been shown to favor science and business over any other opportunity. Art, Architecture and literary business ventures have not been approved or even considered. Wilson is a former physics professor so it is no wonder that he favors the sciences over anything else. While research funding has increased, so has construction of high-profile buildings such as the Integrated Science Building and the Lederle Graduate Research Center have been approved or renovated in Wilson’s time – many other buildings could use the multi-million dollar funding that the former have received.
The next UMass president must be perceptive and very well prepared for the daunting task that is ahead of him. He or she must secure funding for this university, revamp the monetary distribution, improve infrastructure and execute the Amherst 250 plan.
State funding is vital to this university’s survival. A privatized model will not only lead to a more expensive university – one that is already among the highest in New England, but it will defeat the purpose of a state university. State universities should be affordable for all who may want to attend. Preference should not be given to out-of-state students, as this school must primarily cater to Mass. students. It does not matter that the state funding has been cut as much as it has, because the current president clearly has not done a good enough job securing funds that will push this system to the level it wishes to attain.
The distribution needs to be reconciled as well. In-state students’ tuition currently goes into the pool that is the UMass system. This money rightfully should be distributed evenly among all five campuses. However, the out-of state tuition money should stay at its originating campus. Therefore, if Amherst brings in 3,000 non-Mass. students – then that money should be kept on the Amherst campus. It is not fair to take away from the flagship campuses potential funds in favor of the other less successful campuses. Taking away from the uniqueness that is “Zoomass” would not only be an abomination, but a colossal disappointment. This is vital to the health of keeping this campus united as one.
Improving infrastructure should also be a priority for an otherwise deteriorating campus. Buildings are in disarray and crumbling. The beauty of this campus has been overshadowed by ugly looking academic buildings. The UMass Daily Collegian recently ran an online poll asking students, “What is the worst academic building on campus?” Attracting students would generally be harder if it were not for rising costs of other schools and decreases in parents’ earnings per year. Nevertheless, with a record number of students choosing this university over any other, the system must account for this rise. Stop spending money on sciences and research and more on the arts, future president!
The Amherst 250 plan is a plan to increase faculty back to the number it was at ten years ago. This would be to re-hire faculty to teach the growing student base. Even if this plan falls through, the next president must realize that with an increasing freshman class to 7,000 students, the number of faculty to teach these students must be recounted. The Amherst 250 plan will be successful only if the university is willing to spend that money.
Future president, read these cries for help. The entire campus needs your help to make this campus better. To bring this campus back to greatness, you must first take action on the steps outlined to you. Consider this, if you do not do something, then you will have an even bigger problem – that problem will be retention and recruitment. The inadequacies that continue to hinder this system’s success will make Tracy Jan’s infamous “UMass” article look more like an accurate prediction and less of a biased atrocity.