The partnership between the University of Massachusetts flagship campus and the town of Amherst celebrated a milestone today.
UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, accompanied by members of the school’s marching band, welcomed 300 people to the Student Union Ballroom for the 50th community breakfast. The annual gathering sponsored by the university and the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce marks the unofficial start to the new academic year.
"We celebrate our golden anniversary and we should all be proud," he said, adding " As with any partnership we occasionally have out differences but our relationship is fundamentally strong."
Subbaswamy said collaboration is the key to problem solving. He pointed to the steps the university is taking in consultation with the town to conserve water because of the region’s severe drought.
He said students collectively spend thousands of hours a year volunteering at local nonprofit organizations, and also highlighted that the college and Amherst police will launch a pilot “party smart” program this year to try to reduce off-campus disturbances.
Subbaswamy said UMass has over the last decade become more selective in admitting students. The entering class of about 4,700 rank in the top fifth of their high school class, on average.
The conservative-leaning Pioneer Institute in a report earlier this year criticized UMass admission policies claiming out-of-state students were given preference because of the higher tuition they pay. Subbaswamy said out-of-state student enrollment this year is about the same as last year.
" It is a fake controversy," Subbaswamy said in an interview Tuesday. " We welcome international students, out-of-state students and in-state students and the proportions have remained about the same."
Over the upcoming Labor Day weekend about 50,000 students will move into the Amherst area. Tim O-Brien, executive director of the local chamber of commerce, said a lot of business owners bank on the school year for a substantial portion of their livelihood.
" Not only UMass, but Amherst and Hampshire are a vital part to the downtown Amherst business community," he said.
This was the first community breakfast for recently hired Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman.
The food served at the breakfast could truly be said to be award-winning. It was announced Tuesday that UMass Amherst has the best campus food in the nation, according to an annual ranking by The Princeton Review.
Ken Toong, who has overseen the campus dining services at UMass for 18 years, said he was excited and humbled by the recognition. He said the university spends $3.5 million annually to purchase locally-sourced food, and serves meals low in sodium, sugars, and saturated fats.
" Hopefully, by the end of four years at UMass we can work together and change how America should eat," said Toong.
The community breakfast ended with a traditional pep rally-like cheer.
And, in something different this year, slices of birthday cake were given to guests in honor of the event’s golden anniversary.