Ira Bryck: The chancellor’s false equivalence

Thursday, September 08, 2022

In recent Gazette coverage of the annual town/gown breakfast, the chancellor was quoted, comparing UMass Amherst with other college towns, in terms of numbers of students each school provides housing for, to show that UMass accommodates an ample percentage of students on campus, and therefore they are not at fault for the imbalances it causes in Amherst, with outside investors buying multiple homes, which then blocks families from moving here.

Amherst has a population of 40,000, where over half are college students. That means we are a town of 20,000 year-round residents.

And half of Amherst’s houses are rentals, most of which are student rentals, many of which are over-occupied, over-priced, and under-maintained. I recently got another call from a telemarketer, hoping to persuade me to sell my house to a certain investment company.

The chancellor compared Amherst to the college towns of Bloomington, Indiana (population 84,691), College Station, Texas (population 115,802), and St Paul/ Minneapolis (population 730,413).

This is clearly a false equivalence. We are the second smallest town or city in the nation to house a flagship state university. That is great for the town in many ways, but there are other repercussions, that UMass must not sweep under the carpet.

I urge leaders in the town government and the university to have the robust and urgent conversations needed to solve the problem fairly and effectively. This is one of those “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” kind of things.

Ira Bryck