A State of Neglect: Crumbling infrastructure is causing low morale among public university students and faculty.

AuthorBader, Eleanor J.

When a study of air quality at the University of Massachusetts Boston was conducted in the winter of 2021, 60 percent of the rooms in heavily used Wheatley Hall were found to be deficient, with fewer hourly air exchanges than recommended.

And this is not the only health and safety concern on campus. Anneta Argyres, president of the Professional Staff Union at UMass Boston, tells The Progressive that mold from persistent leaks, rodent infestations, inoperative air-handling systems, and malfunctioning heat and air conditioning have long plagued the public university.

"Many buildings on campus are about fifty years old, and the conditions we're facing are maddening," Argyres says. "The governor appoints trustees to the UMass system. Most are real estate moguls and investment bankers who see UMass as a competitive product. They ignore the purpose of public education."

Worse, she says trustees insist that each of the five UMass campuses turn an annual profit. "We did that in Boston and have a reserve fund, but when new construction began and we started to accrue debt, we were told that we could not use this money because it would make our bond rating go down.This is not a policy that any public institution should have."

Like Argyres, Joseph Ramsey, a senior lecturer in English and American studies at UMass Boston, is concerned about the campus's haphazard facilities and financial management--some buildings, he says, are beautiful and new, while others are old and decrepit. "You can feel the morale shift when you move from a room with state-of-the-art air filtration, windows, and Smart boards into a cramped room with blackboards and windows that don't open," he says.

But even new construction is problematic, he continues, and buildings often feel like marketing showrooms. "The original mission of UMass was to make a world-class education available to everyone in Boston," Ramsey says. State-subsidized tuition used to cost $100 per semester but now it is much more expensive--nearly $37,000 a year for out-of-state students. He attributes this to a "current trend that depends on donors, out-of-state, and international students, who pay much higher tuition than local residents."

Ramsey considers the spate of public-private partnerships--something the university claims is imperative--to support new construction to be a capitulation to the idea that direct government allocations will not be forthcoming, and that attracting private funding is the only...

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