Sparks Fly Over CPCS Dean Ad

Gintautas Dumcius

An advertisement for a new dean for the College of Public and Community Service this week looks to potentially spark another war of the words between the college and the provost’s office.

The new dean will ultimately replace Ismael Ramirez-Soto, who stepped down last year and became a faculty member. Some inside the college contend that the popular Soto, who recently filed a complaint against the university with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, was forced out by Provost Paul Fonteyn, an allegation administration officials deny. Professor and former co-director of the Asian American Institute Connie Chan is serving as interim dean.

The ad went out before the formation of a search committee, which was planned to be put together last spring, but administration officials cite a change in chancellors as one of the reasons it was pushed back, in addition to the fall elections of CPCS’s Policy Board, the college’s faculty governance council. The committee will be formed after Fonteyn meets with the Policy Board this week, officials say.

CPCS officials say that they feel the college’s concerns are not being heard by Fonteyn, adding that the ad for a new dean appearing in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education highlights “robust first-class research” over the college’s specialization in “competency-based education.” Very little of their suggestions for the ad were taken into account, they say, with one member adding, “It doesn’t describe the college at all.”

Administrations officials say at least four of CPCS’s suggestions were incorporated into the ad, but acknowledged a difference in tone between Fonteyn’s draft and CPCS’s. Administrators took issue with the CPCS draft, saying that it suggested everything within the college was all right, despite a progressive decline over the years in its student population. The administration, they said, wants someone to “breathe new life into an existing life.”

College officials disagreed with the characterization of their draft’s tone, saying that in their draft they referred to a recent evaluation of the college, which identified both strengths and weaknesses. “In the view of most of us in the college, that is what should set the agenda for the next dean,” said Terry McLarney, professor and undergraduate chair of the college.

In the ad, which went on-line last week, the college is looking for a “leader who will revitalize its focus, sharpen its links to the community, strengthen intercollegiate collaboration within UMass Boston, and mobilize the faculty into a new era of teaching excellence, strong community-based collaboration, and robust first-class research.”

In CPCS’s draft, the college is looking for a “dean who will bring experience, commitment and leadership necessary to lead the college in implementing, assessing and refining this curriculum. The college seeks candidates who are committed and experienced academic leaders, and committed to the urban mission of the college, and are fundamentally committed to and experienced with competency-based education for adult learners.”

Fonteyn originally sent a draft of the ad to CPCS several weeks ago in September, asking for input and saying it would be sent to the Chronicle the next day. College officials wrote back to ask for an extension since the Policy Board hadn’t yet held elections. A week’s extension was given, during which Professor Raul Ybarra was elected as head and changes were made to the draft to more “accurately” reflect the college and its mission, college officials say, and the deadline of November 15 for applications was pushed back to December 15.

When CPCS officials received a copy of the ad that had been sent out, they were distressed to see some of their suggestions not included, and contend they were ignored.

Fonteyn and college officials hope to discuss the ad and other concerns about the college at this week’s meeting. “There are some issues,” said Ybarra, the ad being chief among them.