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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

CPCS Refurbished Not Eliminated

CPCS Student participates in Harbor Point outreach program.



Any rumors that the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) is being dissolved are untrue. Administrators and faculty discussed closing the college and distributing its courses among other colleges, but Provost Langley rejected this idea.

The source of this confusion originates from CPCS refusing further student admission in 2010.

There was also confusion within the college when the UMass Boston website erroneously directed phone calls to a line for the closed CPCS student center, but the mistake has since been corrected.

In 2010, Langley issued a memorandum requiring CPCS to change its curriculum and method of evaluating. Prior to 2010, CPCS evaluated its students based on a “competency system.” Instead of assigning grades, a professor would examine each student’s work and decide whether or not to give course credit depending on the student’s demonstration of his or her knowledge of the subject. Rather than grades, students received the professors’ short statements explaining their decisions.

During the time the new curriculum was being developed, the college stopped admitting students, but students who had completed enough work to graduate by spring 2014 were permitted to continue taking classes.

Prior to Langley’s memorandum, basic math and English requirements were also met within CPCS rather than having the students take courses through the math or English department. This too has changed. Now new CPCS students earn their general education credits like any other UMass Boston student.

The competency system left a lot up to professors, whose expectations varied. Some students prepared large portfolios detailing the work they had done and who had supervised them. Some students earned credits with no more than a 30-minute conversation with a faculty member.

“That is what the Provost was upset about, because sometimes people didn’t do that much,” said Interim Dean of CPCS Anna Madison. “For instance, I have a student who has turned in a two page paper and wants three credits.”

Madison emphasized the merits of the competency system. “Students are less worried about getting a good grade and more concerned with what they are learning,” she said. “I loved the competency based system, but it has to be implemented properly. Professors have to be committed to doing the work.”

Prior to the transition, CPCS also had different admission standards than the other colleges. According to Madison, these unique admission standards likely contributed to the admission of students she called “barely literate.” Madison added, “The competency system only works if the students are prepared for college.”

Associate Provost Kristine Alster said “chronic low enrollment” was another factor in the decision to temporarily close and restructure the college.

“It was an ongoing problem that each year got progressively worse,” Alster said. Alster stated that Provost Langley’s predecessor, Provost Paul Fontaine, had already decided that the college needed to be overhauled. “Tweaks were not helping. Whatever the successes of the past were, it may just have been that times changed and it just wasn’t working anymore.”

Alster also pointed out that graduate schools and professional organizations understand grades but may not understand competency statements. This put CPCS graduates at a disadvantage in hiring and admissions decisions.

Alster explained that when the provost mandated the transition, he requested that the CPCS faculty propose a new curriculum. Some programs were cut completely, including the legal education program.

The loss of the legal education program confused Madison. “The legal education program was not part of their proposal.” Comparatively, the legal education major was a popular program, and graduates moved onto law school, or got work as legal researchers.

“I would not have cut that program. It was gone before I became dean,” Madison said. “The administration tells me the faculty wanted it cut; the faculty tells me that they did not.”

Despite the loss of several programs, enrollment in the new CPCS is on the rise. Additionally, according to Madison, the new student population is “better prepared.”