UMass Boston Campus Blindsided

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

Those words seem to be guiding UMass System President Martin Meehan, as he tries to explain away the clandestine deal that the “Independent” UMass Amherst campus board of trustees approved with the bankrupt Mount Ida College. Meehan told the Boston Globe that the decision to purchase Mount Ida was made independently by the Amherst campus – and that the overall system would not “prevent UMass Amherst from developing a campus that they’ve worked hard at for years. If Boston wanted to acquire a parcel and had the capacity, they could do it as well,” he said.

That’s like a parent telling their recent college graduate, “you can certainly go to graduate school if you can pay for it yourself.” Duh. Thanks Mom and Dad, no kidding. Meehan’s statement was construed as a back-handed reference to the financial challenges of the UMass Boston campus. However, as many media outlets, news reporters, UMass Boston campus students and faculty, as well as elected officials are pointing out, the strategic plan for the Boston campus put forth by former Chancellor Keith Motley, was approved by the very system that has been blaming him for its own ignorance.

Stakeholders be damned!

This appears to be the attitude of the UMass Amherst hierarchy. Talk about pure arrogance. The adage, ‘ask for forgiveness and not permission’ doesn’t look to be a workable strategy at this point. Attempts to question the role of the leadership at Mount Ida College and its financial state of affairs notwithstanding, Governor Charlie Baker, AG Maura Healy, Representative Nick Collins, MA Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago and others have admitted to being blindsided by this move. UMass and Mount Ida signed off on the deal last week, but the state Board of Higher Education has oversight of mergers and closures. Students across the campus believe that the Amherst is jealous of Boston’s growing reputation.

Representative Collins has stated that he was very concerned about where UMB is on the list of priorities. Collins expects to speak with the UMass President Meehan soon, and let him know his frustration. Collins has stated, “UMass Boston is an incredible university in Dorchester, and a real lifeline to the city. This deal begs the question if we have our priorities straight. When you have a campus in crisis, that should be the top priority, not bailing out private institutions.”

The agreement, which was approved by the UMass board of trustees in a closed-door meeting last Friday, will allow some 1,000 UMass Amherst students to be housed on the Mount Ida site, which will be known as the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst. In acquiring the 72-acre Newton campus, UMass will take on the private college’s debt, estimated to be in the $50 million to $75 million range.

Massachusetts higher education officials are demanding information from Mount Ida College., especially the impact on students both currently attending and those who were accepted for the fall. Under the deal outlined by Mount Ida and UMass, Mount Ida students have been granted automatic admission to UMass Dartmouth, a campus about an hour away from Newton. Many students will not be eligible to enroll at UMass given that many admissions periods closed and the May 1 deadline for students to accept offers of admission at institutions of higher education fast approaching, it is likely that many of those admitted to Mt. Ida will be left without an option for continuing their education in the fall. This according to Patricia Marshall, deputy commissioner of education for student affairs.