BOSTON (WBSM) — Senator Mark Montigny is pushing for the unspent portion of the money budgeted for UMass Dartmouth’s operation of the historic Star Store in downtown New Bedford to go to the student-artists impacted by its sudden closure.

Montingy (D-New Bedford) has secured funding in the Senate to support the student-artists, who were impacted by what the senator’s office called “the unnecessary evacuation of the UMass Dartmouth CVPA Star Store campus” just about two weeks before classes were set to begin this fall.

UMass Dartmouth was allocated $2.7 million in legislative appropriation in each of the past two years for the operation of the Star Store campus, but a report to the Inspector General’s office “shockingly revealed that the university failed to spend the entirety of its $2.7 million legislative appropriation for two consecutive years,” according to a release from Montigny.

According to data provided by the senator’s office, UMD had $180,809.68 left unspent in Fiscal Year 2022 and $129,572.82 unspent in FY23, for a total of $310,382.50 – this despite UMD’s claims that the school did not have the funding to keep the Star Store campus open, Montigny’s office said.

“Lack of funding was consistently cited by the university as its justification for the immediate evacuation of the campus, abandoning its own students,” Montigny’s office said in the release.

Courtesy Sen. Montigny's Office
Courtesy Sen. Montigny's Office

Montigny wants to see that money divided amongst the student-artists displaced by UMD’s sudden decision, who are still paying full tuition despite not having access to the facilities they thought they would when they enrolled. That directive was approved by the Senate last week.

“We are outraged that students have been left out in the cold while the university failed to spend its entire legislative appropriation and did not seek out a short-term solution while there was still time,” Sen. Montigny said.

“The ruse that the Chancellor (Mark Fuller) had to make an unexpected decision last August keeps falling apart because it cannot withstand the scrutiny of simple facts,” he said. “I remain determined to help the students and restore Star Store to the vibrant arts center it must be for our downtown.”

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Montigny, who wrote the 1996 legislation that created the Star Store campus of the UMass Dartmouth CVPA, pointed out that the unspent appropriations could have kept the Star Store open for at least this current semester.

He noted that students “still lack proper studio space, transportation, and other basic amenities three months after Chancellor Fuller’s announcement to close the Star Store campus.”

Montigny’s plan would call for the funds to be available for the students until June 30, 2024.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell has suggested the City could buy the Star Store, formerly one of downtown's great department stores.

Montigny's release said his "vision for the next iteration of Star Store is focused on a dynamic mixed-use centered around the arts, which will meet the evolving needs of the city’s downtown and overall economic development."

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