CPCS Cancels 33 Classes

Ben Whelan

In the first week of the semester, while many UMass Boston students were busy buying textbooks and just settling in to their semester, students at the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) were scrambling to adjust their class schedules after the college cancelled 33 classes. While this is in itself is not news, as CPCS class cancellations at the beginning of the semester have practically become an annual event, this round of cancellations is the most extensive in recent history, representing 44 percent of the total classes offered by the college.

As a result, there has been a massive reshuffling administratively at CPCS, with teachers whose classes were cancelled being reassigned to different classes in different parts of the college. Students are being forced to completely rearrange their class schedules, which can be a very difficult task considering that most CPCS students have significant commitments outside of school.

While the official word on why the cancellations took place is because of under-enrollment, CPCS professors Anne Whithorn and —– Frankenstein have a slightly different theory. While both professors agree that many of the cancelled classes were under-enrolled, they contend that some of the classes had adequate, if not full enrollment. They also believe that the low enrollment is not just a part of the normal ebb and flow of college admissions or some sort of failure on the part of CPCS or its faculty to attract and retain students, both of which have been suggested as possible theories for the low enrollment.

In fact, both professors point to CPCS Dean Adenrele Awotona and the policies of his administration as one of the primary causes for the cancelled classes.

Professor Whithorn traces many of the current problems in CPCS to the firing of 11 staff members in the summer of 2006, an incident referred to by some in the university administration as “Black Thursday.” The fired staff members went on to file a grievance against the university, which they won, and were paid out a settlement of more than $200,000 in back pay, medical benefits and other costs. However, other than their monetary compensation, none of the professors were reinstated. This marks, in Whithorn’s mind, a seminal event in the recent CPCS problems.

“From that time on, there has been a constant decline in the quality of what we do and in the number of students, because this is a very tight community of people that comes here; everybody knows everybody; people are in the same agencies. When they say ‘don’t go [to CPCS] now because it’s a mess’…they don’t go,” Whithorn explained. “I mean, people have had enough trouble in their lives, right?”

For students just entering the university through CPCS, the class cancellations are especially distressing. Not only are they being faced with the daunting task of reentering school and adjusting to the campus, they also must deal with the uncertainty swirling around their program.

First semester student Jenna Alderton returned to school after a short hiatus in order to finish her degree, and after very meticulous decision making process, decided on CPCS as her institution of choice. Upon her arrival to Harbor Point, she immediately began to notice that the program of which she was now a part bore little resemblance to the program she had so carefully researched and selected.

“The content of the classroom as a result of the class cancellations is questionable to me because people aren’t taking the classes that they wanted to take, or if they’re farther along in their careers at CPCS, need to take,” Alderton lamented. “All of it is very confusing; all of it, meaning not just where are my classes, who are my teachers, where do I locate my teachers, but also what is that my teachers can do to help me at this point in the game to map out my learning plan.”

Alderton also pointed out that as a new student entering in the spring, she was never given any warning that these class cancellations could or would take place and was unprepared for the chaos and confusion that they caused. Many students, like Alderton, have already paid their tuition and committed to the school, and it is too late to make other plans. “It’s really upsetting,” Alderton concluded. “I’m just so frustrated.”

Although throughout the process of writing this piece many attempts were made to contact members of the administration at CPCS, including Dean Awotona and Assistant Dean for Administration and Finance Terence Flynn, as of time of press they have not returned phone calls or been willing to comment on the record.