This feature offers links to selected articles that might be of interest to Amherst readers.
Here are some local stories from the last few weeks that we were unable to cover in the Indy as well as some interesting commentary and news on affordable housing. Have you read something that you think is worth sharing? Share the link in the comments section below and tell us why you are sharing it.
UMass Unions Fight Privatization Of Fundraising Jobs by Sarah Robertson (3/10/23). Unionized employees of the University of Massachusetts Amherst development office held a rally on campus Monday against a plan to move over 100 jobs to a private, non-unionized foundation. While university officials say they intend to transfer control of the fundraising and marketing staff to the UMass Amherst Foundation to comply with state retirement board regulations, union members dispute that the move is necessary. “I guarantee you this will not benefit the taxpayers of Massachusetts one penny,” said Gail Gunn, a UMass employee of 25 years and a member of the Professional Staff Union (PSU). “It’s only being done to curb state regulations so that they don’t have to play by the state’s rules anymore.” Monday’s rally was held in support of the PSU and the University Staff Association, the two unions that represent staff of the university’s Advancement office. (The Shoestring)
McGovern Makes Reparations Pitch To Biden Using Amherst As A Model by Scott Merzbach (3/10/23).
U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern is using his recent participation in a listening session of Amherst’s African Heritage Reparation Assembly as the basis for calling on President Joe Biden to create a presidential commission to study reparations for slavery. “Amherst is doing the work — they should be a model for the rest of the country,” McGovern wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to Biden that also thanks the president for his work related to addressing systemic racism and racial inequality. McGovern’s appeal follows bills that have been introduced in Congress to establish a federal commission on reparations, and requests by more than 30 civil rights organizations, along with U.S. senators, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, for forming a presidential commission. While none of these have yet become law, and the bill known as H.R. 40 stalled in Congress and is unlikely to gain traction with a GOP majority, McGovern’s letter focuses on what he has learned about Amherst, which became the second community in the country, following Evanston, Illinois, to take the lead on reparations. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
The Different Sides Of James Baldwin. Mead Museum Exhibit Showcases Writers Artistic Connections by Steve Pfarrer (3/10/23). It’s mostly a lesser-known footnote to his career: From 1983 to 1986, James Baldwin was based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he was part of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies and taught students from across the Five Colleges. It seems fitting, then, that an exhibit that examines the famous writer’s connections to the arts is enjoying just its second staging, this time at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College. “God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin,” which runs through July 9, features a wealth of photographs, drawings, paintings, archival materials and more that together present a broad look at the writer’s life and work. More specifically, the exhibit, created by the writer and theater critic Hilton Als, is designed to examine Baldwin’s relationship to, and interest in, the visual arts. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Chancellor Subbaswamy To Get New Position With UMass by Scott Merzbach (3/9/23). Oversight of the academic program throughout the University of Massachusetts system and establishing a strategic vision for equity at the five campuses and their 74,000 students will be undertaken by retiring UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy when he assumes a new position in Boston this summer. UMass President Marty Meehan announced on Thursday that Subbaswamy, who is leaving the chancellor role in Amherst after 11 years at the helm, is being appointed as interim senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs and Equity. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
College Binge Drinking On BORGS Sends Record Number To Cooley Dickinson Hospital by Scott Merzbach (3/8/23). It’s the kind of record that a community doesn’t want to see their local hospital break, but that’s exactly what happened Saturday when alcohol consumption among college-age people contributed to a record number of ambulance arrivals over a 24-hour period at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. In that timeframe, 62 ambulances arrived at the hospital, a more than 20% increase from a previous record of 51 ambulance calls, spokeswoman Christina Trinchero said. The hospital said 32 of those ambulances were related to pre-St. Patrick’s Day revelry by college-age people in Amherst, many of whom were participating in a binge drinking trend called borgs, or blackout rage gallons. The Amherst Fire Department and University of Massachusetts officials said many students were observed during the day carrying plastic gallon containers with a mix of alcohol, electrolytes and water. The trend has been depicted on TikTok, and UMass officials said this was the first time they identified it on the Amherst campus. The day’s festivities didn’t cause significant property destruction or lead to many arrests in Amherst on Saturday morning and afternoon, as they have some years, but they did prompt the activation of a regional medical task force. (Amherst Bulletin)
UMass Students: Everyone Was Drinking From BORGS by Maddie Fabian 3/8/23). Another “Blarney Blowout,” the annual unsanctioned St. Patrick’s-inspired party, has come and gone at UMass Amherst. Each year, the celebration that kicks off spring break is filled with rowdy drinking, but this year nearly 30 students were taken by ambulance to the hospital, in part due to the consumption of “borgs.” Made popular by TikTok, “borgs,” short for blackout rage gallons, are the latest binge drinking trend. Often labeled by marker with names like “Somewhere Over the Rainborg” or “My Parents Diborg Papers,” the gallon jugs contain a mixture of water, alcohol and flavored energy drinks. “Literally anybody and everybody was carrying a borg around,” said freshman Tess Mollo. “It seems like that was the main attraction of Blarney.” The scene was typical for a Blarney Blowout — crowds of students dressed in green, a drunken student crowd-surfing in a shopping cart, and people throwing up. (Amherst Bulletin)
BORG Drinking Is Going Viral on TikTok, What On Earth Is It? by Madison Malone Kircher (3/9/23). Before you ask, BORG — which is pronounced like the aliens from “Star Trek” — is an acronym for “blackout rage gallon.” The drink going by this name is a mixture of water, alcohol, sweet flavorings and some hangover remedy, like Liquid I.V. or Pedialyte. The concoction has become increasingly popular on college campuses across the country, thanks at least in part to TikTok, where videos of students brandishing their jugs at parties and demonstrating how to make the beverage have been widely shared. BORGs made the news this month, when the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Town of Amherst issued a joint statement regarding a “significant number of alcohol intoxication cases” that occurred during the Blarney Blowout, an annual off-campus event. (New York Times)
UMass Authorities Regroup After Mass Partying by Scott Merzbach (3/8/23). Classes running later into the spring at the University of Massachusetts and graduation at the end of May for the first time in 14 years means many students will be staying in Amherst for more warm weather weekends. Since the change in the spring semester to accommodate an extended winter session was announced last April, town officials and police and fire departments have been aware that this could add to the burden on public safety services — understanding that inclement conditions such as snow, rain and cold can be a valuable partner in combating large gatherings and neighborhood disturbances. But the pre-St. Patrick’s Day events on Saturday, in which significant quantities of alcohol were consumed by college-age people — many through what are known as blackout rage gallons, or borgs — and thousands of people coming together in specific areas of town, are giving town and UMass officials renewed concerns. Particularly worrisome, they said, would be preventing the resumption of problematic events, such as the Hobart Hoedown, which for a generation of students became a rite of passage. Both the town and university are setting up an after-action, or debriefing, meeting to see what lessons can be drawn from Saturday’s unsanctioned event, long known as Blarney Blowout. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)