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Statement From FSU Member Ken Reardon to BOT- 12/18/19

Statement by Professor Kenneth M. Reardon

UMass Board of Trustees Meeting

December 18, 2019

Boston, MA

Good morning Chairman Manning, Board of Trustees Members, Colleagues, and honored guests.

My name is Ken Reardon and I am a Professor and Director of the MS in Urban Planning and Community Development Program in the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

We launched our program, which is committed to preparing the next generation of inspired urban planners committed to serving the development needs of local communities within the Greater Boston Region, with five students, in 2015.

Just four years later, we have 34 students enrolled in our master program, two students in our Ph.D. Program, and 19 alumni – all but two of whom are serving public and private planning and development organizations in our region.

Unlike many UMass graduate programs, all but two of our current students pay full tuition individually or with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Last year, our program generated $80,000 in revenues; this year we will generate $120,000 in revenues.

Despite our positive balance sheet and impressive program accomplishments, we have been forced to manage our program without a single dollar of general operating funds during the past five years.

How could this be? First, there is the structural inequity built into the Board’s funding formula that privilege the needs of Amherst students over those at other campuses. Second, is budgetary pressure our campus faces due to “legacy construction costs” that we had no role in creating. Third, are the austerity budgets imposed on our campus during the past several years.

How have we managed to build the program with such limited support? First, we are intensely focused on students’ needs. When we realized many could not afford to quit their jobs to attend daytime classes, we transformed the program into an “evening school”. Second, faculty have covered expenses from their “start up” and personal funds. Third, we have recruited outstanding professionals from our region who have regularly taught and advised in our program on a “pro bono” basis.

So, you can imagine my reaction when I read of UMass Amherst’s plans to acquire Mt. Ida to offer professional educational programs 10 miles from our campus. In our first meeting with Interim Chancellor Newman, I asked what steps were being taken to insure there would no duplication of programs. I was assured that our respective Chancellors would be working together to prevent this problem and its attendant waste of resources.

So, you can imagine how outraged I was when my students began receiving invitations from the UMass Amherst Geography Department to consider teaching in their Mt. Ida program which they said would be offering a range of certificate and degree programs focused on spatial analysis and land use policy which are programs that compete directly with our newly established graduate program and our School’s Geographic Information System classes.

It is my understanding from colleagues who attended one of your recent meeting where the issue of program duplication was raised, that Chairman Manning argued that competition among campus programs would, in the long-run, lead to a healthier system better equipped to meet the needs of our students’ and the Commonwealth. Speaking on behalf of a program that has successfully competed with three of the nation’s top ten urban planning programs (MIT, Harvard, and Tufts) to build a thriving program, I can unequivocally state that my colleagues and I are not afraid of competition.

What we are opposed to is unfair competition enabled by our own Board of Trustees. You can’t provide the lion’s share of the Commonwealth’s higher education budget to Amherst, allowing them to provide graduate assistantships to a significant number of their students; ask us to pay for the failures of the Dukakis Administration’s campus construction program; impose austerity budgets on the UMB campus that deny successful programs, such as ours, basic operating funds, and empower Amherst to use their “surplus” to purchase a campus in a superior location where they can offer programs that directly compete with us.

Our students, the majority of whom are first-generation college attendees, deserve to be fairly treated by this Board. A critical step you can take towards insuring educational equity for our students is to prevent the Amherst campus from establishing programs that directly complete with those being effectively offered by our campus.

Thank you for your time.

Kenneth M. Reardon received his BA in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Master of Urban Planning degree from Hunter College of the City University of New York, and Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. He completed a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in Public Policy and Minority Communities at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute for Public Policy at the University of Minnesota. He has held tenured faculty positions at Illinois, Cornell, Memphis and UMass Boston. He has chaired the graduate planning programs at Cornell, Memphis, and UMB.