Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Not the Best Ambassador

I have a daughter who is in the midst of applying to colleges. When we were discussing "safety" schools, I suggested that she look at U. Mass. Amherst. I would never have considered this twenty years ago (I shunned the place myself), but they've made a great deal of progress, their reputation among publics has risen, and they have a good Honors College program. This doesn't entirely erase my reluctance to have her exposed to the everpresent mass of humanity inhabiting the campus who will forever preserve for it the nickname ZOO MASS. But I could overlook it, perhaps.

I have to be circumspect, however.

In the wake of the well-publicized rioting of several hundred students following U. Mass's loss to Appalachian State in the Division 1-AA championship game, the university's vice chancellor, Michael Gargano gamely vows that the university will hunt down by any means all of the responsible students and deal with them harshly. They're talking expulsion and prosecution. Bully for them.

Then we have this. One "Mishy Leiblum," a student trustee and undoubtedly the apple of her father's eye, coming to the defense of the oppressed students in their sufferance of a near-police state:

Mishy Leiblum , a student trustee, said the more the university has clamped down on students, the worse students' behavior has become. "Who cares if you bash your windows if you feel like you live in barracks?" asked Leiblum, who noted that she does not condone the rioting. "Why would you have a vested interest in your building?"

Ms. Leiblum is apparently dissatisfied with the quality of her housing and thinks that it is appropriate to express one's dissatisfaction by destroying public property (although she draws the line at rioting). Maybe they should get bigger rooms or something.

Well she has apparently had a change of opinion, because she was higly critical of the recently completed dorms on North Campus, which featured exactly that:

According to Marisha Leiblum, the newly elected Student Trustee the housing space could have been doubled if it had been constructed in a fashion similar to the other housing on campus.

"Everybody knows that these dorms were built to attract a new, creamier crop of students to UMass. While originally the University was considering building new dorms that would house twice as many students as these new suites (for essentially the same cost), they opted for luxury for a few over affordability for many. Unfortunately, this represents the general administrative philosophy on campus today."

In another breath, she calls for providing free access to courses and lowering tuition -- that'll help with the dorm rooms, Mish.

Ms. Leiblum, a graduate student in Labor Studies, has a way with words. During a March, 2005 meeting of the Faculty Senate in which the subject was a draft action plan for increasing university diversity, Ms. Leiblum confronted Chancellor Lombardi thus:

Undergraduate Student Marisha Leiblum asked for a point of clarification. She asked the Chancellor if they were going to be talking to the wall or if there was going to be some kind of response to these questions at some point.

Chancellor Lombardi responded that the purpose of the exercise is to gather opinions, comments, and suggestions for
improvements to the draft. He is listening very carefully so that he can take advantage of people’s perception of what is right
and wrong about the draft and then incorporate it when they revise it.

Ms. Leiblum responded that that did not answer her question. She asked if the Chancellor was going to give any feedback.

Chancellor Lombardi responded no.

Ms. Leiblum then asked if that meant that for the whole meeting he was not going to speak back.

Chancellor Lombardi again responded no.

And then there's this little bit of Utopian thinking:

After their demonstrations failed to convince the trustees to reject student fee increases, she had this to say:
“We see this as a step towards starting a dialogue about the role of public higher education in Massachusetts,” said student Marisha Leiblum, who was one of the demonstrating students and a member of the Free Higher Education movement. “We plan to continue to lobby for more public money for UMass throughout the spring and beyond.” As for the scope of the fight for funding for UMass, she stated, “Ultimately we think higher ed is a right, and should be free to all.”

I hate to be a pessimist, but as long as radical fools like this are given titles like "trustee," U. Mass will never shake the ZOO monkier.

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