The following letter was sent to Tony Maroulis on January 20, 2023 in response to his letter of the same day. The Indy was copied in on the correspondence.
Thank you for your response on behalf of the Chancellor. I am aware of the details regarding the pavilion that you offered as they were all in the original article. And while we can appreciate the intention behind the effort, the decision is a poor one and not well supported by the community nor apparently the service workers or the unions representing them.
As noted in my letter, I, and a rapidly increasing number of Amherst area community members have concerns about the use of the “anonymously donated” funds to erect a building on a piece of property that we feel very strongly should remain unmarred.
There are several concerns that are not being addressed here:
- Anonymous donations by an individual to a public institution that result in decisions made without transparency that impact staff, faculty, students, the community, and the environment are problematic.
- Not least of which is the very disturbing and rather outrageous fact that the University has staff and service workers who worked through the pandemic and who have not received sufficient compensation for their work. And it appears that none of the unions who represent these workers were ever informed of this donation, nor of the supposed honor this was meant to bestow. No input was sought nor given from the very workers this is meant to honor. Quite frankly it’s unconscionable to witness the University agreeing to spend this amount of money on this project when it’s workers continue to face economic challenges as employees of the University. It’s a bit tone deaf when you have workers struggling to pay rent, groceries, heat, and electricity and you erect a building for $7 million in their “honor”. Give the workers the money – let them individually decide how they want to spend the money – that is an act of honoring their efforts that will have far impact and meaning than this pavilion.
- None of the property owners abutting this property have been informed or given the opportunity to see the plans or raise concerns and the ones I have heard from so far are not happy.
- You will find that if surveyed, the majority of the local community who have been walking and enjoying the property for years are vehemently against any construction on the property – and are not in favor of the proposed pavilion design. And while we do understand that the University owns the property – and we are deeply grateful that the property has been so beautifully and respectfully maintained in the manner we can imagine Janet Dakin had intended – balancing the conservation of the property with the desire to provide access to the community – we believe that this plan for the pavilion is a mistake and will only end up eroding the unique pristine landscape.
I spent an hour or so at the Jones Library Special Collections reviewing Janet Dakin’s personal correspondences, the deed and land contracts for the property, the many articles about her lifelong dedication to conservation and her personal photos of the property and house as it was built all those years ago.
Janet Dakin’s long history as a staunch conservationist is evident in the honors and recognition she received from the Mass Audubon Society, The Trustees of Reservations, The Kestrel Trust, The Amherst Conservation Committee and the Committee to Support Protection of the Holyoke Range. Janet’s history as one of the most active and influential conservationists here in the Valley leave me to believe that she would not support the use of these funds in this manner. She dedicated her family fortune to increasing the acreage of protected and conserved land while ensuring her community could retain respectful access to it through the trail system. I cannot see her feeling good about a parking lot and a large building being erected so people can do what they can already do without all of that.
My initial letter to the editors of the local papers – similar to the letter I have sent to the Chancellor – has sparked quite a bit of public concern and questions about this planned project. I would like to ask the University to please have the conversations you should be having with the unions that represent the workers, and also a conversation with the abutters to the property as well as invite general community feedback on the project.
Robin Jaffin is a resident of Amherst