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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Excerpt: UMass Boston Task Force Report

Editor’s Note: Excerpt from the recently-released, five-page report by the UMass Board of Trustees on the Boston campus’s racial climate. The full report can be found up on the web at [http://www.massachusetts.edu/index.cfm?fuseaction=generic.9]. The Task Force was chaired by UMass trustee and MBTA retirement fund executive director Karl White. It included former UMass Boston provost Louis Esposito, now provost at UMass Dartmouth; Marcellette Williams, former UMass Amherst chancellor; Richard Ong, associate counsel from the General Counsel’s Office, and Kevin Barrett, associate director of human resources.

The Task Force spent a day on campus in dialogue with about 20 campus representatives from various governance, student, and employee groups. It was a wide-ranging discussion covering topics such as campus climate, campus priorities, and the campus relationship with the community. It was the general perception that the climate of the campus is less inclusive and chillier than it was under previous administrations and that the current campus administration was less supportive than previous administrations had been with the Columbia Point community. It was noted by one faculty participant (and alluded to in other discussions) that the campus’s urban mission had been assigned a lower priority in campus mission documents.

In addition to the review of campus data and the meetings and discussions with various campus representatives, the Task Force also met with Chancellor Gora and with Madison Thompson, the Director EEO/AA in order to have a fuller perspective of all the voices that needed to be represented in the Task Force’s review. In both these discussions the matter of manner and substance of campus communications was evident as a contributor to the more confusing and negative perceptions of inclusiveness of campus climate and of understanding of what constitute supportiveness of the Columbia Point community.

With regard to the allegation regarding the departure from the campus of faculty and administrators of color, the Task Force found no evidence of discrimination. What it did disclose was that an unfortunate confluence of unrelated events led to the coincidental departure from UMASS Boston of identified persons of color – some through retirement and others to re-locations to other positions in other universities. Thus, through the review of data and in conversation with affected persons, the Task Force can find no evidence of bias on the part of the Chancellor and her administration.

The original charge to the Task Force of racial bias and/or indifference to faculty and administrators of color evolved, over the course of the Task Force’s conversations with the various groups, into a controversy about whether or not the core urban mission of the Campus had been or was being abandoned. A review of the data shows that the campus has undergone severe budget cuts during the past few years. The figures do not show that CPCS has sustained a substantial cut. However, the data does show that the other college departments have taken proportional cuts and that with the precipitous reductions in enrollment in CPCS it still can boast strong administrative support. The data are clear. The budget allocations to CPCS suggest that the Chancellor still views CPCS and its functions as both important and timely. She has confirmed this commitment to the Task Force. In that same interview, she said that any suggestions she has made to CPCS for programming (MSW) or new directions have been met with resistance. Based on its review in this context of CPCS, the Task Force found no evidence that the Chancellor has abandoned the “core urban mission” of the campus.