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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Secrecy on Campus – Editorial 3/4/04

On February 12, a secret meeting left the UMass Boston community out in the cold on a hot topic: racial diversity. After a number of controversial incidents at UMass Boston raised questions concerning UMB’s commitment to diversity, the Board of Trustees created a “task force” to begin examining the issue.

In October, members of the Legislative Black Caucus, including Boston city councilors Chuck Turner, Felix Arroyo, and Charles Yancey, and state Rep. Mel King, met with the Board of Trustees to press for an investigation into allegations of racist attitudes among UMB administrators.

There has been no word why the task force chose to meet in the Healey Library behind closed doors. Students and faculty who agreed there was need for the meeting and who wanted to participate and dialogue with the task force were turned away by four police officers standing guard.

The administration needs to explain why four police officers were employed to guard the meeting from ten or so faculty and students. Is the task force afraid of students? Why?

The reasons for the closed meeting are not exactly clear. The administration has cited that “sensitive material” was being discussed. However, this remains to be seen due to a total lack of transparency.

All public committee meetings in Massachusetts are subject to the Open Meetings Law, requiring that members of the public be allowed to observe. The Board of Trustees took advantage of a loophole in this law by using the term “task force,” and a “task force” is not a committee. This switch of names creates more distrust, as concerned students and faculty were left in the hallway speculating as to why the administration is using semantics to get around the law and to preempt any discussion.

It’s good that the Board of Trustees has decided to take the issue of racism seriously with the creation of the task force, but the way it has operated thus far has not reassured the UMB community.

If they won’t talk to and do not trust the community to participate, how can this body help improve race relations on campus? Instead of helping to rebuild trust, all they’ve done so far is breed more distrust between the community and the university tops.

However, all is not lost. Trust can be rebuilt. The first step to reconcile the concerned members of the community and the administration is to publish the minutes of the February 12 meeting. If the Board of Trustees is as committed to diversity as it professes to be they must alter their posture and confront the concern from students, faculty and community leaders openly.