UMass vs. UMass

UMass takeover of Mount Ida College has many up in arms

The list of those supporting the takeover of Mount Ida College in Newton by the University of Massachusetts as a satellite campus for Amherst students starts with UMass President Martin Meehan, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, and the system’s board of trustees, all of whom got together and quietly moved on the $50 million acquisition, plus taking over the private school’s debts. And it pretty much ends there.

The roll call for those against? Despite the internet’s unlimited capacity, the list is too long to recite here. But to sum it up, the consensus of the opposition seems to be two-fold: What’s up with that? And it’s yet another reminder to UMass Boston that it is the red-headed stepchild of the system, with some even hinting not so subtly that there may be some racial bias at play.

UMass Boston “students — who make up the most diverse campus in New England — are getting another painful lesson about where they stand in the university pecking order,” writes the Boston Globe’s Joan Vennochi. “As low as it goes. It’s an education, all right — an education in the institutional bias that tilts toward the elite flagship Amherst campus, which, let’s face it, is also whiter. Some might also call that an education in institutional racism.”

The decision was made, according to Meehan and Subbaswamy, as a way to give Amherst students a leg up in getting internships and other relevant experience by being closer to Boston while staying in a “safe” environment on the bucolic 72-acre campus. If that doesn’t raise flags, nothing will.

Meehan’s office announced the acquisition late Friday following a trustee vote that few knew was taking place. In addition, few even knew UMass was in talks to take over the struggling small school. As recently as last month, Mount Ida had been in talks with neighboring Lasell College for a merger, with both school battling declining enrollment. If officials thought a “Friday news dump” would mute the impact, they misjudged.

Many wonder if there are better places UMass could use the money going for the takeover, given the continuing rise in tuition and fees, the crumbling infrastructure needs of several campuses, especially Boston, and the budget holes that prompt school officials to plead with lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker for more money.

Attorney General Maura Healey says she will look into the takeover. Mount Ida students have been promised automatic admission to UMass Dartmouth at a low tuition but the 260 Mt. Ida faculty members didn’t fare as well, with all being let go. There may be some competition, though, as Keene State in New Hampshire has jumped in and given expedited acceptance to Mount Ida students to lure them north.

UMass Boston students and faculty are up in arms over the acquisition, saying the Western Mass. campus is growing and expanding into the Boston area while their campus is starved of funds. A Globe editorial says UMass has so far shown “no convincing justification for the controversial transaction.”

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

A Lowell Sun editorial raises many of the same questions, and sums up the feeling of many.

“If this is a ‘rescue,’ send in the clowns,” it says.