Sunday, September 28, 2008

By any other name...

The question is not what would Amherst be like without Umass but what would Umass be like without Amherst? There’s a move afoot to drop the 01002 location from the Flagship University because it makes Umass sound to provincial.
The Boston Globe reports

Even though Umass is currently the second largest landowner in town (all of it tax exempt).

Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in bucolic Amherst over a generation ago I remember my mother—a staunch Irish Catholic –becoming horrified at a family gathering when a relative asked my slightly older sibling, what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“A Redman!” he almost shouted. My mother assumed he was talking about those marauding Indians from a John Wayne movie. But he was referring to Umass basketball; a moniker changed in 1972 to “The Minutemen” which is of course is fine by me.

I also remember hiking from High Street on cold winter Friday nights to sneak into The Cage to watch “The Redmen” at work. The advantage of being a pint-sized 8-year-old is you can insinuate yourself fairly easily into a general admission crowd and sneak by ticket takers.

So I have always lived in the shadow of Umass, even back when it did not cast such an overpowering shadow. I remember when the Southwest was simply a rolling open field where we neighborhood kids would play “capture the flag”.

All relative, I suppose; because back in the 60’s when only a few thousand students attended Umass Amherst townie population was a lot smaller as well. And as the University grew, so did the population of Amherst.

All us blue-collar townie kids wanted to get a job at Umass, many of them—fast approaching retirement age—still work there. I remember the water crisis from 25 years ago, although a tad differently than reported in the press recently. A town employee forgot to prime one of the main pumping stations so when the kids returned there was no water.

And the huge library that was to be a symbol (like the World Trade Center Twin Towers) of a proud flagship. Then the bricks started falling. The Collegian on April Fools Day issued a spoof article saying engineers forgot to calculate the weight of books and now the Library was sinking. The AP picked up the story, and to this day it is an Urban Myth.

Because of the University one cannot help but get involved in current political issues. In the late 60’s and early 70’s it was of course Viet Nam—the Mother of All issues. In the 80’s streaking and disco (politics took a back seat) in the 90’s nothing, and now--sort of--the Iraq War.

Amherst benefits greatly by the presence of the flagship, but suffers financial hardship as well. The University has a police department (with more staff and better funded than the town’s) but no Fire Department thus relying completely on the town’s annual $5 million operation. And of course our Police Department also spends about 25% of its time dealing with students.

About ten years ago Umass removed Amherst from their logo, now they want to go one step further and pretend the town doesn’t exist. Okay, next time somebody on campus calls 911 and requests help the dispatcher should say very slowly “Well what Umass is this: Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, Worcester, or that provincial one out there in the sticks of Amherst?”

Would Umass still smell as sweet without Amherst? Hell no, that stinks!


Anonymous said...

Larry, there is another aspect to the water issue that - itself - is reflective of my point that if the town stopped hating UM so much, it would help the town.

The old (replaced campuswide in 2004) toilets were vacuum-breaker type that used the water pressure to turn *off* the toilet. Which is perfectly fine in a big city with the added advantage of reducing the shockwave effect of all the toilets flushed at once (and shutting off at once with the water then rupturing the pipes).

The problem was simple - once you lost pressure the situation cascaded to the point where no amount of water could possibly shut off the toilets. I remember reading about UM setting an incredible all-time one-day usage of several extra million gallons that day. And the jockey pumps in the SW towers probably didn't help as they were lifting water to higher pipes that otherwise would be dry, sending more to open toilet valves.

I have seen this happen three times this summer, with the water scare, with the West Nile scare, and with the STILL NOT REPAIRED Fearing Street bridge. Town and UM fight with each other to no avail and like big bureaucracies, would never think of preventing the other guy's problem.

0h, and as to the 911 calls, unless Amherst is truly stupid and wants to pass up homeland security money, it soon will be an Amherst/UM/Hadley 911 dispatch center anyway, the money is going to go for regional centers (which the eastern half of the state has had for a decade or so now.)

I could see a push to even include B'Town and perhaps Ware into an "Eastern Hampshire EMS Dispatch Center." They did this in the far bigger Boston suburbs....


Anonymous said...

Also notice how the water scare was the last week before school started and that two of the bad samples were either on campus (campus center) or right next to it (Fearing Street).

Gotta wonder if the line was stagnant with neither UM nor APW flushing hydrants assuming that there wouldn't be a need as the usage would go up the next week....


Anonymous said...

Ed, can you please comment on the water problem 25 years ago, you were after all a student then too I assume, you appear to be on the 25 year cycle...P.S. do you have any plans of graduation in your future and moving on to a real life?

Mary E.Carey said...

Interesting historical stuff and great photos, Larry!

Anonymous said...

If you regionalize dispatch centers to include multiply towns, your going to lose the personal service issued by our current emergency personnel. Imagine you are a college student, or family member of one, are in an emergency in belchertown or ware and dont know where you are. Are you going to rely on people who arent familer with the are to figure it out? I think combining Umass AMHERST and hadly and amherst police/fire might be ok, but keep in mind that amherst is a busy town than the others, and you wouldn't want the serbvice that amherst provides to go down because there is too much to do.

maryd said...

Hi Larry, what exactly does it mean to "drop the 01002 location from the Flagship University?" I am waaay out of the loop on this one.

LarryK4 said...

Hey Mary (D that is)

Our beloved Flagship is considering dropping the nomenclature Umass/Amherst in favor of just plain old Umass (but then there are FIVE of them) because some uppity grads are embarrassed about the out-of-the-way location and us local hicks.

LarryK4 said...

Thanks Mary (C. that is)
The rose shot is from Stanley Park about a month ago (when I first got pissed off about this) and the mushrooms sprouted this afternoon in my front yard (and you know what they say about the stuff that keeps mushrooms happy)

Anonymous said...

It is really sad that you take so little time to understand the institution or the people that work at the institution that dominates this town. Are you really that (for want of better word) ... insecure that you think that the reason for dropping Amherst is because "uppity grads are embarrassed about the out-of-the-way location and us local hicks?" Such nonsense. Look at other flagship universities... University of Wisconsin, NC, Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut... There are exceptions in states with a lot of strong campuses, like University of California (LA, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Davis, etc.). But that's not the situation in Massachusetts. We have one strong (non-med school campus), and that is Amherst. As the flagship, UMass doesn't need the addition of the town it resides in its name. Referring to UMass Amherst as UMass is just a way of indicating that this campus *is* UMass. The other smaller campuses need a city name to distinguish them, but UMass *is* UMass Amherst.

You really think that UMass wants to "pretend the town doesn't exist?" Such nonsense. UMass is UMass Amherst to most of the people out there. They need no reminders of where the flagship is located.

The difference between journalists at real newspapers and "bloggers" is that "bloggers" can say anything they want, and there will be a group of people that will cheer them on. It still doesn't mean that the blogger got the story right.

Now, on to another equally silly issue. Let's consider what Amherst would be without UMass? There would be few local restaurants (who would support them?), no Hastings, no Amherst Athletic Club (!), no Hampshire Athletic Club, no Gold's Gym, no Black Sheep, no plays, relatively little music. Where would the (as you call them) "townies" work? What businesses would they run? What would they sell? to whom? What would the carpenters, electricians and plumbers (many of whom are locals) be doing? How many houses would they have to work on? Where would you and members of your family have been "educated?" I think it's time to accept that UMass is here to stay, and without it, most of the (your words) townies would not have been able to. Hard to run a restaurant or athletic club or liquor store without customers. That's just my opinion. Since I'm not an economist, I don't really know that for sure.

One last thing that I find odd. LK says that the townies all got jobs at UMass. But he also talks about UMass as some foreign object. It sounds like UMass is made up of townies as well as people who ended up here because of the university or the town. Maybe it's time to cut the we vs. them thing. Again, just my opinion... I really don't know much about what drives people to set up fictional evil empires.

Anonymous said...

> One last thing that I find odd.
> LK says that the townies all
> got jobs at UMass

I too noticed that. It almost is like there are THREE Amhersts - the "townies" who grew up out here and got jobs at UMass in the '70s, the students of that era who stayed here, and then the students of today.

For what it is worth, the group that I have the most problems with are those '70s-era students who neither have any concept of what it is like to be a student today nor would be able to survive as a student today.

They were students when UMass cost a couple hundred dollars a year - not the $17,000 of today, they were dealing with a somewhat unvarnished civil libertarian police chief (Moia) and a good-old-boy Selectboard as opposed to Charlie Scherpa and the Town Mangler of today.

The Boy Scouts not being able to sell Christmas Trees - that wouldn't have happened in the 1970s....


Anonymous said...

For the record, I was not physically present in Amherst when the water shortage happened in 1983(?).

No more than I was physically present when the Mass Building Authority went off the deep end into bankrupcy a decade earlier.

No more than I was present in 1788 when Amherst voted against ratifying the US Constitution.

There are historical records. One can read them and have some reference as to what happened before one's arrival on the planet.


LarryK4 said...

Oh, I think “journalists at real newspapers” can say anything they want—except these days bloggers are there looking over their shoulders (remember Dan Rather?) And last I looked there is no national, state or local certification for “journalists”.

Sure, Umass is here to stay (going on a hundred fifty years now…ALMOST as long as my family has been here). And as such, I can even deal with the overpaid cheerleaders like you.

Anonymous2...I like that. And you have the balls to question my journalistic integrity?

Anonymous said...

Great video -- and timely:

Anonymous said...

I disagree with your characterization of "what Amherst would be without UMass." We really don't know what Amherst would be. Amherst did exist before UMass. Amherst College also existed in town before UMass. How do we know that, if UMass were not originally located here, the land that it currently occupies would not have been snapped up by some researcher-type who saw potential collaboration with Amherst College, amassing a large, tax-paying facility on that land? We don't. Just like we don't know that the current UMass land might not have become multiple family farms, a mall, or a dozen other things.

What we can say is that UMass is here to stay and the town is in its current situation in part because UMass IS there. For better or worse. So instead of creating possible scenarios of "what if," let's focus on the present and the future and hopefully our town government will be able to work out an agreement where both parties can continue to benefit.

Anonymous said...

Just remember that a good bunch of the UMass land is swampland, development precluded by wetland rules.

It was lousy land, that is why UMass got it. Now as to Amherst College......


Anonymous said...

> It was lousy land, that is why UMass got it.

Ed, SHUT UP. You're a dumbass.

ARHS '76 said...

The debate about whether Umass should market itself as Umass or Umass-Amherst to project the image of a flagship state university is mildly interesting.

I think both sides have merit to their argument. That the issue is help up as an issue of significant importance is a function of the age we live in, where branding is more important than substance. Wouldn't all interested parties be better served if more fundamental issues were the topic of debate?

How Amherst would fare without Umass or visa versa is not so interesting because it's moot. We might a well debate whether Ed will ever shutup about Umass.

Amherst College would benefit in branding, a notion it perceives as unimportant to its purpose and its well being, if Umass called itself Umass instead of Umass-Amherst. The latter name, Umass-Amherst contributes to confusion about which of the two schools a person is referring to in conversation:

P1: My cousin went to Amherst.
P2: Really, I heard they call it the Zoo and it's a party school
P1: No the other one.

Anonymous said...

"We might a well debate whether Ed will ever shutup about Umass."
Or finish his "education" there...

Anonymous said...

So blogger, what is the evidence that UMass is considering dropping its *-Amherst* because "uppity grads are embarrassed about the out-of-the-way location and us local hicks?" You owe it to your readers to tell them where you get your (mis)information.

Also, I have no idea what you mean when you talk about my "balls"


Anonymous said...

Ed is correct in citing the swampland that UMass is built on. Most of Southwest, was swamp. I, too was born and raised here, and watched as they built the first of several High rises, in that area. They have sank, over a period of years because of the swamplands. Start deoing your own research and you will see that he is right.

The Blogger and myself, have a lot of history, here, as well as Ed, although I hate to admit it.

Zoo Mass is a great name for the school. I, also worked there, in one of the dining halls, and animals, are what most of them are. I could go into great detail of some of the things that I saw, but that would take up too much time. Also worked in dorms, cleaning, during intercession, and oh, my, what did those kids learn at home? If they did learn anything at home, they sure left it there.

Until later...............

Anonymous said...

The building that is really sinking is T-6, Washington Tower, which is also leaning toward the river. Either 3% or 6%, I forget which.

Problem in this case wasn't swampland as much as the fault line that the Connecticut River covers. On the side toward the river they didn't hit bedrock with the pilings on that side, said "good enough" and built it anyway.

Like most of UMass, it was only built with a 30-40 year life expectancy, which means that 40+ years later, well....


Ed is correct in citing the swampland that UMass is built on. Most of Southwest, was swamp. I, too was born and raised here, and watched as they built the first of several High rises, in that area. They have sank, over a period of years because of the swamplands. Start deoing your own research and you will see that he is right.

Anonymous said...

I'm still hoping that the blogger can tell us the evidence that UMass is considering dropping its *-Amherst* because "uppity grads are embarrassed about the out-of-the-way location and us local hicks?" Is this from a survay of graduates or somethin like that? Since I have known quite a few grads and have never heard anything like this, I am just surprised and need to know if its accurate or made up. I'm just hoping for a little accountability from my number one source for news of Amherst. Anonymous2

Anonymous said...

given the historical basis of the name "amherst", particularly with respect mr. lord jeff and his security blankets, i suggest the town consider changing its name... from a ruthless evildoer who purportedly never stepped foot in town, to the biggest name around town.

lk, i think you mentioned that umass is the 2nd largest landowner in town. our town should honor the largest landowner in town, or is that in massachusetts? or both? i don't know.

so, i propose the new name of our town to be the republic of jonestown. this, of course, would nullify any argument about umass dropping 'amherst' from its name.

it has a nice ring...

umass jonestown

Anonymous said...

concerning the change from redman to minuteman. i only learned of that after i got involved in the minuteman crossing plaza design. i suppose the elimination of the native aspect of the school and replacing it with colonial imagery was pc back in 72, but i would rather have the redman back.

it became very poignant to me, as i studied the layout of that part of campus, to discover that the minuteman bronze is essentialy staring down metawampe, the other bronze, that one of the native who sold off "his" peoples land without their consent, legend has it. sold it to the 'minuteman', so to speak.

the chief metawampe statue was donated by the class of 1950 and erected by the class of 1956. oddly enough, the same two classes which came together to erect the minuteman bronze (50), and the minuteman crossing stonework (56).

Anonymous said...

here is some footage i got last thanksgiving morning of the minuteman....cue the geese.....aaaand ACTION

and here is one of a 4 y.o. discovering for 1st time

and of 4 random students spontaneously acting silly