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UMass Boston Students, Faculty Want UMass Amherst To Drop Mount Ida Acquisition02:11
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University of Massachusetts Boston. (Joe Difazio for WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
University of Massachusetts Boston. (Joe Difazio for WBUR)

Some students and faculty at the University of Massachusetts' Boston campus want officials at the system's flagship school, UMass Amherst, to reconsider their plan to acquire the 74-acre Newton campus of Mount Ida College.

Hundreds of people on Wednesday afternoon gathered at UMass Boston in Dorchester to call on the university to reconsider its support for the acquisition.

Arthur Mabbett, a chairman emeritus of the UMass Boston board of visitors — an advisory group that advocates for the campus — said he was blindsided by the news that UMass Amherst intended to spend tens of millions of dollars to buy the Mount Ida campus.

"No, I’m not aware of, quite frankly, any people — including members of the board of trustees – who weren’t necessarily involved in the discussions specifically, that knew about it," Mabbett said.

The bid to buy Mount Ida's campus will further the inequality between UMass Boston and UMass Amherst, Mabbett said. The goal of a university system, he said, should be for the various campuses to work together.

"Having competition within the university system should be a no-no," Mabbett said. "The system should operate as a system, and if Amherst wanted a Boston presence, quite frankly, simply come to UMass Boston and establish some joint programs."

UMass President Marty Meehan has defended the proposed Mount Ida acquisition. Meehan argued the money would come from UMass Amherst coffers, and a new campus would open up the Boston job market to the flagship's students.

"Putting another campus in the vicinity of Boston makes it harder for our working-class, majority-minority students to compete for jobs, internships and money in a city that already has dozens of schools competing for it."

Katie Mitrano, UMass Boston student government president

But some at UMass Boston say that can only happen at their expense.

"Putting another campus in the vicinity of Boston makes it harder for our working-class, majority-minority students to compete for jobs, internships and money in a city that already has dozens of schools competing for it," Katie Mitrano, president of the UMass Boston undergraduate student government, said.

Advocates also criticize the Mount Ida deal in the context of recent academic cuts on the Boston campus. Now they’re calling on the state Legislature to act and increase funding for the UMass system's sole majority-minority campus.

This segment aired on April 19, 2018.

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Simón Rios is a reporter in WBUR's newsroom. He joined the station after two years at The Standard-Times in New Bedford, where he cut his teeth covering immigration and business.

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