CVPA students bemoan loss of school they thought they attended

CVPA students bemoan loss of school they thought they attended

Some of the UMass Dartmouth students have begun to ask the university to reimburse them for services they did not receive this last year — such as access to classes, kilns, materials, community with other students, etc. The New Bedford Light received a heartfelt letter from a graduate student named Matthew Napoli: 

“You have baited my colleagues and I into moving across the country (and in many cases, across the world) under promise of certain educational and professional opportunities,” he wrote. “By then freely electing to break this promise, you actively handicapped our educational and professional development.”

And then this: “I simply cannot imagine failing at something so hard that elected officials must pass legislation in order to make me do the right thing. It remains comprehensively baffling to the entire South Coast community.”

Fallon Navarro, the gifted ceramics student who rose to be a student leader during a year that students missed a lot of expected services. She said other students intend to write to Sen. Mark Montigny about what they have lost. The money is supposed to be spent by July 1, the end of the fiscal year.

Second year CVPA student Anis Beigzadeh with one of her sculptures at the Bed Bath & Beyond campus. Beigzadeh came from Iran to study at the UMass Dartmouth Star Store campus. Credit: Jack Spillane / The New Bedford Light

Montigny wrote to Secretary of Administration and Finance Matthew Gorzkowicz to note that when the Inspector General’s report on Star Store finances is completed, he expects the students to be reimbursed.

He explained that there is a $2.7 million appropriation that “the university failed to completely spend” and refused to use for keeping students in the Star Store this year.

“Although I secured language in the FY23 closeout supplemental budget to extend this appropriation, students have yet to receive meaningful atonement,” he wrote.

It looks like Sen. Montigny is going to be disappointed because a spokesman for Chancellor Mark Fuller says what remains of the money is already back in state coffers. It seems it would have to be reimbursed from there, if he’s right.

UMass Dartmouth spokesman Ryan Merrill described the vast majority of the money as having been spent on rent and restoration of services lost after the move out of the Star Store. 

Here’s the university’s statement:

“The University spent the overwhelming majority of the 2022-2023 appropriation on rent and maintenance of the building,” the statement said.

“UMass Dartmouth is grateful that the state authorized the university to access the $129,572.82 in returned funds to support programs impacted by the removal of the Star Store appropriation from the 2023-2023 budget. The funds have allowed the university to build multiple outdoor kilns behind the CVPA building to restore access to necessary equipment for our ceramics program.”

Navarro, like Napoli, said students plan to make their case to the university and to Montigny about what they went without.

“I don’t know what I paid for,” she said, noting that she had not had access to a university-sponsored kiln for her ceramics work until February.

Students like Navarro and Napoli have risen to the occasion of the very difficult year UMass Dartmouth foisted on them without warning. I went to their graduate thesis exhibition at the Art Museum and saw their work two weeks ago. The art they achieved under stressful conditions is no less than breathtaking and inspiring. These young people labored under unnecessary conditions foisted on them by the university. They are an inspiration.

The exhibition is where I saw the Remember the Star Store T-shirts, which the students had hoped would encourage the alumni to buy and contribute to a scholarship fund and other students’ needs. Many of them paid out of their own pockets this year when expected goods and services weren’t easily available.

Nothing, of course, will make up for what has happened to these UMass Dartmouth students during this needlessly traumatic graduate year. All of it was unnecessary and caused by the administrators at their own university.

As the students have tried to keep their plight visible with the opening of a temporary downtown gallery of their own, few faculty have come forward to back them up in the media. Especially as time went by and the decisions by Fuller and his administration wore them down. There has been talk of other faculty who have been dismissed in the past.

“We definitely still want to save the Star Store,” Navarro said. ‘It’s been difficult for us because we don’t have much support within the university. We have had administrators tell us to just forget about it and move forward.” 

Email Jack Spillane at [email protected]

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