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Too Much Construction?

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The University of Massachusetts Amherst is a public research university in Amherst Massachusetts and is the flagship school of the University of Massachusetts system. With more than 27,000 students, it is the largest public university in New England. I’ve attended UMass Amherst for the past two years, and there has never been a time when I have not seen the campus plagued with construction. Whether it’s changing a light into a rotary or building a new research lab, it seems that the campus is constantly under construction.

UMass Amherst has a reputation of being repeatedly voted as one of the ugliest University campuses (20 Ugliest…). The constant construction might be a contributing factor, as well as being a traffic nuisance. Tuition costs have been steadily rising in recent years. Believing that the University was raising the cost of tuition simply to pay for their new buildings, I was irritated.

While researching what the University was spending its fund on, I uncovered a major flaw in the system. The money that the University spends on construction projects come from alumni donations, as well as loans from the UMass Building Authority, while tuition is completely separate. As a result, the University raises tuition as well as splurge on hundred-million dollar buildings. Recently, UMass Amherst was ranked 94th on ‘Best National Universities’, and 42nd among public universities (U.S. News). Alumni donations flooded the University. With this influx of money, the University adopted an aggressive expansionist policy.

A center for recreation opened in 2009, serving as a state-of-the-art fitness and activity area for students and faculty. The total cost was $50 million (“New Recreation Center”…), a relatively small price tag, comparing it with other recent buildings. Two years after it opened, the ‘Rec Center’ is a major highlight of the UMass Amherst campus. Adding to the Recreation Center’s appeal was a suitably sized parking lot; giving Parking Services an ideal source of revenue, while allowing off-campus students convenient parking after 5 p.m. for their workout. Yet only two years later, the parking lot was closed and construction on new dorms started.

The Commonwealth Honors College is the honors college at UMass, although it hardly seems it. Open to anyone interested in intensifying their curriculum and who can maintain a high enough GPA, many are originally attracted to the program. Unfortunately, most are met with disappointment after the realization that there is no special housing, and no sense of community (Shore).

With the Honors College building, the appeal of the honors program and UMass Amherst greatly increases. With a building specifically for the Honors program, the program becomes more attractive to prospective students, being surrounded by their Honor program peer. Perhaps UMass will shed some of its ZooMass and ‘bro’ reputation, and instead become more of a beacon of education.

Also in the plans is a new academic building, slated to be built on the north side of the campus pond. The choice of location is somewhat unpleasant, as a new classroom would take away from the aesthetics of the campus pond in the warmer months. Not only visually infringing, a local preservationist group contend that “plans to construct a new classroom building near Campus Pond at UMass will ruin an iconic landmark and its surrounding landscape” (Cain). Both sides are currently fighting over the matter, slowing production of this building down considerably.

Goessman Laboratory was built in 1922, and it shows. Hazardously out-of-date, renovations are desperately needed. It turns out renovations are already in the plans and are expected to be completed by January 2013.  Renovation is expected to be complete in January 2013. The renovations include lab renovations, new ventilation, new heating and air conditioning, new lab waste and neutralization systems, sprinkler system, generator, and wireless internet (Facilities…). It’s about time; these renovations have been needed for years.

Joyce M. Hatch is the retiring vice chancellor for administration and finance. It was her job to decide which projects to give the green light to, and has stated that “every single one of these buildings is needed”(Lederman). After researching exactly how the University was spending its money, I am inclined to agree with her. Each new building and renovation is badly needed and come at a time when other colleges don’t have the money to invest in new facilities. While the sheer volume of money that is being invested into UMass Amherst is staggering, there is no need to worry that this money isn’t being put toward necessary causes.



Work Cited

Blaguszewski, Ed. “New Recreation Center Officially Opened at UMass Amherst, Creating New Era of Health and Fitness Opportunities for Students.” University of Massachusetts Amherst. Office of News and Media Relations, 3 Dec. 2009. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

Cain, Chad. “Preservationists Aim to save UMass Campus Pond from New Building.”GazetteNET | News and Information from Northampton, MA by the Daily Hampshire Gazette. 22 Oct. 2011. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

“Facilities Planning Construction News, Schedules & Calendars.” University of Massachusetts Amherst. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

Lederman, Diane. “Construction Begins on New UMass Honors College Dorm |” Western Massachusetts Local News, Breaking News, Sports and Weather – 28 May 2011. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

Shores, Chris. “Commonwealth Honors College: Myth or Reality?” The Massachusetts Daily Collegian [Amherst] 21 Nov. 2010. Print.

“The 20 Ugliest College Campuses in the USA – A List of All Ugly Colleges.” Think Student Loans | Private Student Loans & College Loans From Think Financial. 11 Jan. 2008. Web. 18 Nov. 2011.

“Top Public Schools | Rankings | Top National Universities | US News.” Review. U.S News & World Report. Print.


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5 responses »

  1. I liked this essay. The ascetics of the campus need some work and all the plans for renovations are interesting. I really hope they can get everything they want done. I was disappointed to hear that the tuition raise may not be necessarily helping out at all. I would like to know why they need to raise our tuition, it could be an interesting fact to uncover.

  2. I liked this essay a lot and was also very interesting. Every morning in south west I wake up to some sort of truck backing up or construction noise and don’t really understand what is really changing and why. It does make sense that as the university betters its reputation that it continues to improve hence all the construction. I think compared to all the other University of Massachusetts (Lowell, Dartmouth, Boston) it is the least ugly but in general appearance isn’t an attraction. I think as the Honors program is distinguished more from the University it will also help its reputation so by building a separate complex it will put out the name of the honors program. This will be good because more applicants will apply and try to be in the program. In general I agree these improvements will better the University.

  3. I thought this essay was very interesting. I knew about the new honors building, but had no idea that so many other plans were in the works for construction and renovation. The essay made me see the campus from a different perspective, and I now realize how temporary the current state of the campus is, relative to the changes of future years. The essay did leave me wondering what some of the details of various projects were. For example, what will be the purpose of a new building near the pond? Did vice-chancellor Hatch give reasons for why each of the projects are necessary? Overall, however, the essay was intriguing, especially from the viewpoint of a current student; I knew of very few pending projects for the campus, but as you have shown, there are many possibilities and the campus may very well look completely different ten years from now.

  4. This essay definitely caught my eye when I was scrolling through the list of essays. I was very intrigued by the way you argued against the innovation and new buildings and spun it in a way that made sense. I agree with what you are saying, but I wonder why Umass is conducting construction if it has no positive benefit at all. I also liked the way you discredited certain aspects of the construction, for instance how a new building will take away from the asthetics of the campus. Overall, as a current student at Umass I agree and support what you are saying.


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