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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Student Disorientation Manual

On April 25th, Lets Take It To The Hill!
On April 25th, Let’s Take It To The Hill!

The ugliness just keeps grinding on at the College of Public and Community Service, but for the last couple of weeks the CPCS community has been acting up, and some high UMB officials have been acting out.

First, at a Faculty Council meeting on Monday, 9/11, UMB Provost Paul Fonteyn responded to question from a CPCS student asking whether the administration could guarantee that all CPCS students would be able to graduate given the massive staff and class cuts to that college. . . with a flat “no.”

On Wednesday, 9/13, at an open Undergraduate Senate forum with UMB Chancellor Michael Collins, he replied to a similar question by another CPCS student by saying she should go talk to Provost Fonteyn and they could work out a graduation plan on an individual basis. He also slapped down another student’s well-informed comments regarding CPCS crisis as “rhetoric.”

On Thursday, 9/14, yet another CPCS class was canceled. Because it had no professor. Due to the admin firing a bunch of professors at the start of the semester. Students in the class enlisted the aid of a CPCS professor to accompany them to the Convocation barbecue to find the Provost to demand redress. Upon their arrival, the Provost proceeded to yell at the professor in public, saying that CPCS faculty are “fabricating information.” But the admin is pure as the driven snow? That seems highly unlikely at this juncture.

Things got even more lively once the CPCS community started scoring some major press hits the next week-beginning with a short sharp shock from the Boston Herald on Sunday, 9/17, followed by some Channel 5 coverage the same morning. Then a cover story in the Tuesday, 9/19 Metro, and letters by a student and a faculty member in the same day’s Herald–hitting the stands just as the first of two protests by CPCS students that week got under way outside UMass President Jack Wilson’s office in downtown Boston. This was followed by a Channel 5 story on the second protest on Wednesday, 9/20.

The press coverage focused on the huge cuts to CPCS classes and faculty and the hundreds of academic careers hanging in the balance because of them. Both the Herald and the Metro asked for an admin explanation for the worsening situation, and got more noise than signal from UMB flak catchers.

In the Metro, for example, Deputy Chancellor Drew O’Brien said that declining enrollment was responsible for class and faculty cuts university-wide. Meaning that the CPCS cutting a far larger percentage than any other UMB college is somehow o.k. in that context? Odd, given that just days earlier in his Convocation speech, Chancellor Collins said that enrollments were up this year. Perhaps the admin should have a confab and get its story straight. Either the Chancellor was playing fast and loose with some fuzzy stats, and O’Brien was right about dropping enrollments (due to, gee, I dunno, maybe the ridiculous and growing sticker price of a UMB education?). Or the Chancellor was right, and O’Brien was just covering up bad admin behavior against CPCS with a plausible-sounding explanation. Pretty lame no matter which way you look at it.

CPCS students have been burning up the phone lines to local politicians for weeks. Blowback from the negative press attention coupled with the resulting annoyed phone calls from the pols caused the admin to finally take decisive(ish) action on behalf of CPCS students. UMB style.

By Tuesday of last week, Vice Chancellor O’Brien started emailing CPCS students to inform them that the admin was suddenly concerned about their well-being, and that they were going to immediately rectify the situation by offering what? Redress? Recompense? Reinstatement of classes and faculty? Oh, no no. Individual counseling! So the same people busily ripping CPCS apart are now inviting students one-by-one to the same higher admin suites in Quinn 3rd Floor, where for weeks they’ve been getting completely blown off by Provosts and Chancellors (and Flunkies, oh my!) and sent back to the warm caring ministrations of the anti-Dean at CPCS. But this time they’ll be briefly gladhandled in front of any press that happens to be paying attention, then sent right back to CPCS again. That’ll work gangbustas, one feels sure.

Still, maybe there’s something to this admin “counseling” thing after all. Perhaps all the hundreds of screwed CPCS students should go to the Provost’s office to ask for their own “individual” paths to graduation. Collectively. Once there, they can legitimately say “the Chancellor sent us.” That sounds like some fine entertainment from this corner.

Jason is a student in the Public Policy PhD Program, and a member of the UMB Tactical Media Group. E-mail him at [email protected]