I learned the maxim "people are policy" from Morton Blackwell, who served in the administration of President Ronald Reagan. UMass Dartmouth's people are policy.

One of the biggest drivers of our local economy and culture is the Dartmouth campus of the University of Massachusetts. In fact, the campus is larger than the original SMU footprint. Today there is a law school with a separate campus in Dartmouth and a downtown New Bedford campus. Those campuses are in place because of local leaders who fought for them. Those campuses weren't gifts from the powerbrokers in Boston. Those educational opportunities exist today because of the work of leaders like Senator Mark Montigny.

Our local university, supported by the taxpayers, should be geared towards local students. There is a role for out-of-state and international students on the campus, too. But the focus should be on providing quality education at an affordable price for local people who want to improve themselves, and by extension, our region.

The only way to safeguard the mission of our local university is to make the next leader of the school a local person.

The town of Dartmouth absolutely depends on the campus maintaining its current position as a destination. The city of New Bedford has an economy based on the downtown campus. What happens if a new leader comes in and switches the campus to a mostly online college?

Don't be shy about this important decision. You have a role here. Call the office of Gov. Charlie Baker and tell him why we need a local leader at UMass Dartmouth. Call your local legislator and the Speaker of the House and the Senate president and tell them what you think.

This is one of the most important decisions we have facing us and we can't leave it up to the Boston politicians to decide our fate.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at chris.mccarthy@townsquaremedia.com and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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