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The Mass Media

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February 20, 2024
2-12-24 PDF
February 12, 2024

CPCS STUDENTS ALLEGE ADMINISTRATIVE INACTION

To: President Jack WilsonFrom: CPCS Student UnionSubject: Concern with the Leadership of UMass Boston

Dear President Wilson,

This letter is submitted to you on behalf of the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) Student Union, our formal student governance body. Over the past several months CPCS has been embroiled in a serious crisis. As of yet, little has been done by the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) Administration to remedy the many concerns raised by students.

The CPCS students are extremely concerned that several actions of Dean Adenrele Awotona and Provost Paul Fonteyn are threatening the very existence of the college. This crisis is causing us tremendous stress, impressing upon us a feeling of second-class status, and most importantly, may pose a serious threat to the retention of current students.

CPCS students expressed concerns after Provost Paul Fonteyn recently made allegations that the CPCS Constitution is invalid. The Provost is inaccurate with his claim; according to the processes laid out by the Board of Trustees, the CPCS Constitution is in fact valid (see below).

In May 2003, former Chancellor Jo Ann Gora sent a memorandum to Celia Moore, chair of Faculty Council, stating that her only hesitation with the revised CPCS Constitution was the inclusion of the Gerontology Department. Should this concern be addressed, Chancellor Gora concluded, she would forward the Constitution to the Board of Trustees. The final revision to the CPCS Constitution, which included removing the Gerontology Department, took place in September 2003. Since this time, CPCS has operated under the revised Constitution with the blessing of Celia Moore, as all objections from former Chancellor Gora and Provost Fonteyn were corrected. This blessing arrived via an email dated August 29, 2003 from Cecilia Moore to Terry McLarney, the Undergraduate Chair at the time. In November 2005, Provost Fonteyn summarized a report from the General Counsel’s office alleging issues with the CPCS Constitution. However, the complete report has never been released to the public.

According to the “Board of Trustees Statement on University Governance,” document number T73-098, also known as the “Wellman Document,” a maximum of 70 working-days are allotted to disapprove college policy, providing written explanation for the decision:

“Any matter not acted upon within seventy-working-days of receipt of notification by the Chancellor of an action by a governing body will be taken as approved by the Board of Trustees. When a recommendation is disapproved, the governing body will receive written reasons in detail for the adverse decision.” After the finalized corrections to the revised CPCS Constitution in September 2003, the 70-day period expired by the middle of December 2003. This deadline passed nearly two years prior to Provost Fonteyn’s statements alleging problems with the Constitution. While Provost Fonteyn may take issue with the current CPCS Constitution, it is a valid document that Dr. Awotona and the rest of the administration have no right to disregard. Their actions violate the sanctity of established governance.

Since Dr. Awotona assumed office in July 2005, he has made several unilateral decisions that directly resulted in a public outcry from all constituents of the CPCS community: Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni as well as many local community organizations and politicians. Changes include:

1. Total disregard of the CPCS Constitution;

2. Suspension of the authority of the democratically elected Policy Board, the legal governing body of CPCS.

3. Failed to recognize the democratic election of an Undergraduate Chair

4. Dissolved the role of the Undergraduate Chair (who oversees the undergraduate structure of the college)

5. Appointed program directors extra-constitutionally

6. Unconstitutionally transferred two key staff members from CPCS Student Services.

7. Furthermore, Dr. Awotona has disregarded the traditional participatory democratic nature of CPCS by making unilateral decisions without consulting those most directly affected.

During the week of February 12, 2006, the CPCS faculty and staff held two secret ballot votes regarding the performance of Dr. Awotona. Both resulted in unanimous votes of NO CONFIDENCE.

Students, through the CPCS Student Union, have organized multiple public grievances in protest with the actions of the Dean. First, a petition that was signed by over 200 students with the following demands:

1) Stop all plans, present and future, to transfer, layoff, or otherwise remove Administrative Dean Sarah Bartlett, Prospective Student Advisor Cheryl Monahan and any other current staff from the CPCS Office of Student Services.

2) Recognize the authority of the CPCS Constitution and its elected Policy Board, recognize the CPCS Undergraduate Faculty’s nomination of Professor Carroy “Cuf” Ferguson as the CPCS Undergraduate Chair, and rescind any extra constitutional appointments that Dr. Awotona has made since becoming CPCS Dean.

On Thursday, March 9th, 2006 these petitions were presented to the offices of the Chancellor, Provost and Dean during a “Walk Out.” CPCS students walked out of their classes and congregated in silent protest of the actions of Dr. Awotona. He met us with a prepared statement, showing once again his lack of willingness to consider student concerns.

Later that evening, a Public Hearing “Speak Out” took place. This event was organized by the CPCS Policy Board and the CPCS Student Union to offer a forum for the Chancellor, Provost, and Dean to listen and respond to our grievances. Each of these administrators, who claim to be concerned for the well being of CPCS, were invited, but none appeared during the 3 hour time period. Over thirty individuals spoke out in protest of the treatment of CPCS, while an astonishing number estimated between 125-150 concerned members of the community including faculty, staff, and outside community members came to show their support and solidarity.

There has been ZERO RESPONSE from the administration of the University of Massachusetts Boston to any of these actions. This leaves students feeling that our administration is neither interested nor cares for our well being.

This letter is a plea to the higher administration. We have provided you with contextual grievances. Please see that our problems are not fabricated, and that the extermination of our beloved college has begun with the actions of Dr. Awotona and the UMB administration. We ask you to refocus your priorities as leaders of a Public University: to seek full heartedly what is best for your students. We implore you TO LISTEN and take seriously our concerns and ACT UPON our grievances.