By Andrew Tyrrell, Managing Editor
Situated at the UMass Club in Boston, president of the UMass System, Marty Meehan, was joined by Governor Baker and other key politicians, as well as the five chancellors of the respective UMass campuses, for his State of the University address.
President Meehan’s address focused on the importance of the UMass system here in the Commonwealth, and the need for further investment and collaboration from private citizens and the state government.
After an introduction from the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Rob Manning, and after pointing out some key figures in the UMass system and the importance of the work they do (including UMass Dartmouth’s own Romayne Grace at the STAR Center), President Meehan launched into explaining the importance of the UMass System here in the Commonwealth.
“Like me, many of our employees are UMass alumni who find fulfillment in helping today’s students succeed. Some of you may not have such a direct affiliation, but have been influenced by UMass. That can actually be said for nearly everyone in Massachusetts,” Meehan stated.
He went on to explain that between current students, alumni, and faculty that “UMass is represented in one in 10 households in the state.”
President Meehan then shed some light on the higher education situation in the state in general. “We are also – with increasing responsibility – the institution educating Massachusetts residents.”
Though he expressed an admiration for the work of the private institutions in the state, he went on to point out that “The facts are undeniable: We are serving Massachusetts in a way that our private competitors no longer do. Since 1986, enrollment of Massachusetts residents at the top eight private universities by ranking – Harvard, MIT, Tufts, BC, Brandeis, BU, Northeastern and WPI – has declined by 72 percent. UMass educates nearly three times as many Massachusetts residents as those eight schools combined.”
With more than a third of students graduating with degrees in science, engineering, and mathematics, Meehan makes it clear that it is the UMass System that makes the Commonwealth competitive.
President Meehan cites a Bloomberg report that has Massachusetts as one of the nation’s strongest economies, as well as the recently released report from U.S. News and World Report that ranks Massachusetts as the best state to live in. Meehan makes it clear that it is because of the education that UMass provides that the state has achieved such high rankings in many important categories.
As Meehan continued to discuss the value of the UMass System, citing in particular the system being responsible for $6.2 billion of economic activity annually, and pointing at the important work and achievements of the professors staffing the universities, he seized his opportunity to make a statement on President Trump’s travel bans.
“At UMass, student learning is also enhanced by the constant flow of people and ideas from outside the University — from industry and government as well as from countries around the globe our international scholars help us solve global problems. That work results in intercultural understandings that make us stronger… and safer. Closing our minds and our borders does nothing to make us stronger or safer.”
He continued: “Creating fear and anxiety does nothing to achieve those goals. Public research universities, especially those as important to their states as UMass, won’t stand idly by while federal policies undermine our mission so directly. We must stand up and speak out.”
In using such strong language, President Meehan makes it inexorably clear that UMass is committed to diversity of ideas and of people.
After moving on to discuss the research currently being undertaken at the several UMass campuses, as well as expressing a need for more funding so as to lessen the financial burden on the students in the system, President Meehan made the penultimate proclamation.
“I am proud to say that the state of the University of Massachusetts is strong.”