The mess at UMass

By EDITORIAL  |  June 13, 2007

Despite what the dailies have reported, the recent campus unrest at UMass involves more than just bungled internal politics. The fear at the campus level is that the failed Tocco-Wilson coup would lead, if not to the dismemberment of the university, at least to the transformation of the Lowell, Dartmouth, and Boston campuses into glorified community colleges. That would be an outrage. Boston’s wealth of private institutions has long since become national in their orientation, and costs continue to climb at private institutions in and outside the state. Poor, working-class, and middle-class families are being priced out. The pain is real, the need is great. Behind the stereotypes and the unfortunate and unfair stigma of second-class status, UMass — at all of its campuses — provides high-quality education at an affordable price. A handful of Romney holdovers should not be allowed to destroy that.

Freeland and the soon-to-be-appointed members of his commission have an opportunity to define a promising future for UMass, at least until the next gang of political opportunists comes along. We can only hope that Freeland will do his job properly, and that he will find willing supporters in Governor Deval Patrick and the state legislature. Finances are tight, but public higher education is vital to our future — more vital than Massachusetts has traditionally realized.

Immigration and Iraq
The immigration-reform bill that is stalled — and perhaps dead — in Washington is deeply flawed. But it is a symbol of our nation’s political dysfunction that a problem that has been more than 20 years in the making cannot progress even with the support of prominent conservatives, such as Senator John McCain, and leading liberals, such as Senator Edward Kennedy. For more than six years, President George W. Bush has practiced the politics of polarization, making enemies of all who did not agree with him. Now that habit is so deeply ingrained in Washington that, when an uncomfortable consensus is needed on a hot-button political issue that is only going to become direr as time goes on, gridlock results. The sorry state of the proposed legislation is bad enough, but even worse is the unwillingness of the left and the right to compromise reasonably. The outcome will be what it is, but based on this precedent we should all prepare ourselves for an even more rancorous deliberation this fall, when the debate over how and when to get out of Iraq resumes in earnest.

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