All UMass Boston students and faculty are very familiar with wind. Attending a school exposed to the elements and the ocean winds on three sides comes with its fair share of challenges, including the following: standing outside, walking upright, and having hair. Lately, the wind has gotten more fierce, strong, and bitter than ever, and walking to class can be very difficult and slow, especially when one is walking against the wind, or heading to a midterm.

Recently, ideas have surfaced on campus to harness the aggressive winds to get students to class quicker than ever. A company that specializes in energy-harnessing windmills has begun producing patented blue-and-white papier-mâché wings that can be purchased in the UMass Boston bookstore for $20 a pair. Each set of wings comes with adjustable straps, an attached parachute safety mechanism (in case the wind suddenly stops), and a snorkel to be worn while flying (in case you get blown into the nearby ocean). The wings themselves span 15 feet from wingtip to wingtip, and can be folded back upon landing. The whole landing process of the winged students makes them look rather like stiff, sweaty, stressed blue jays. 

The wings are so large that people being knocked over them became a huge problem last week. A campus-wide email on Wednesday warned students of a new rule that required all wings to be taken off and left in a pile in the courtyard before entering any buildings. Any student caught disobeying this new rule would have their wings confiscated.

Campus-wide interviews, conducted throughout the past week, provided interesting perspectives from students, faculty, and parents on the school’s harnessing of wind for daily transportation.

Sophomore biology major Wendy Daye says,“It’s so simple and quick to get to class now! I simply step outside, unfold my papier-mâché wings, and hope the wind blows me in the right direction. I have been blown into the sea a couple times, but the amount of times I’ve used this method and gotten to class in under a minute has made all the almost-drowning experiences definitely worth it.”

Freshman Gail Breese has thoughts on the spooky nature of this new form of transportation: “At certain times of day, when lots of people are coming and going to class, the sky can be almost dark because people flying to class block the sky light. It’s kind of crazy. A lot of my friends really love flying to class. I don’t really like it, to be honest. I prefer to stick to good old-fashioned skipping.”

A visitor to the school last Thursday, Gus Tee (who specified they were a parent visiting their freshman son), was “quite alarmed” to see “what looked like large, panicky insects flapping around campus”.

Some professors from the physics department have used this new wind-harnessing phenomenon for an educational benefit. One physics major’s homework included the following question: “If one student is harnessing 60 mph winds with wings that span 15 feet across, and the wind is traveling in the northeastern direction, and the student is late for their 9:30 a.m. physics exam, how hard will they fail my class?”

All in all, the community of UMass Boston has truly made the most of their blustery situation. You could say that the university’s students have really stood up and spread their wings in response to this challenge. Students and faculty both can finally stand up straight (outside) and hold their heads high against the bitter ocean gusts.


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