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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Former Dean Files Discrimination Complaint

Nearly a year after he resigned as dean of the College of Public and Community Service, Dr. Ismael Ramirez-Soto has filed a discrimination complaint against the university, according to a UMass task force report.

The report, put together by Karl White, UMass trustee and head of a task force that set out to investigate claims of administrative racism on campus, revealed the former CPCS dean has filed the complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).

“The Task Force does understand that, since the conclusion of the Task Force’s investigation, he has filed a complaint of discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination,” the report read.

The complaint was filed in June, and the university has submitted a response. Attempts to contact Ramirez-Soto for comment were unsuccessful. Senior administration officials declined to comment, saying it was a pending case.

The task force’s report, coming a year after the task force was formed partly in response to the dean’s resignation, concluded that there was no evidence of discrimination on campus and the alleged chilly climate towards people of color was a misperception.

The report also stated that there was no basis in alleging Ramirez-Soto’s resignation was due to discrimination.

“No information has been presented to this Task Force supporting the allegation that Dr. Ramirez-Soto’s stepping down as Dean was a result of discrimination,” the report read. “Indeed, in a conversation with the Chair of the task force, Dr. Ramirez-Soto complained about the terms offered for the renewal as Dean and that the dispute led to his departure as Dean.”

Tempers flared last year between the college and then-Chancellor Jo Ann Gora’s administration when Ramirez-Soto, dean of the college for eight years, resigned to become a faculty member in September 2003, adding to an already tense racial climate due to the April 2003 arrest by campus police of an Africana Studies professor. Gora has since left to head up Indiana’s Ball State University. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs J. Keith Motley is filling in as chancellor for the interim.

“Dr. Ramirez-Soto ceased being dean because he was offered a contract that would have forced him to relinquish his rights as a faculty member,” angry CPCS staff and faculty members wrote in a letter to the university community after Ramirez-Soto’s resignation. “The contract the Provost offered did not include [a “return to faculty” clause], and the Provost refused to accept Dr. Ramirez-Soto’s request that a new contract include the very same clause as the contract then in force. The Provost did so despite the fact that Dr. Ramirez-Soto was the most senior dean on campus, the only collegiate dean of color, and the only dean to have been through two highly successful performance evaluations.”

Administration officials maintained that Ramirez-Soto, who was offered the same type of contract the other college deans had, had stepped down on his own, and not been forced out. “The provost wanted him to continue as the dean. I think the provost has been very clear all along that he wanted him to continue,” noted one senior administration official at the time.

Connie Chan, CPCS professor of human services, has been serving as interim dean. A national search for a new dean is expected to eventually occur.