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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Editorial: Racial Climate Report

Complaints of a racially biased UMass Boston surfaced in the fall of 2003. A significant decline in faculty of color, followed by the claims of racial discrimination, spread throughout the campus. These issues roused questions about a hostile racial climate, causing the UMass Board of Trustees to take action and assemble a task force, not only for students of color, but for faculty as well. In 2000, a report was put out to address issues of action-oriented programs and affirmative action policies here at UMass Boston. Then-Chancellor Jo Ann Gora’s budget was being eyed in the alleged mistreatment of CPCS. The task force found no evidence that the chancellor opposed the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS). An explanation should have been issued to diffuse the confusion arising over these matters, it said.

The problem was not, it seemed, Chancellor Gora or her senior staff, but the past failure to recognize racial climate on this campus as a continuum. The exodus of faculty of color ignited a guarded awareness of the university. Faculty members from UMass Boston were not dismissed based on race, the five-page report maintains, but because relocation, retirement, and new positions were at work.

There are criticisms of the report to be made. The report does not go into detail to support the findings of its investigation, nor does it cite its information in an index. For something that took over a year, more was expected. Had a student written it for class, doubtlessly it would have sent back for a re-write.

One thing is clear from the report: the decline in faces of color, especially the questions surrounding this issue, should have been better tended to, and quickly answered.

But what does that say about this campus’ ability to maintain a fair atmosphere? There are also those whose frustrations lay dormant behind the fear that any expression of their qualms might very well be counter-productive and create an even tenser atmosphere. A way of keeping a peaceful and free environment is to remind people of the urban mission and the motivations behind it, using those same concepts as a vehicle for the betterment of this campus. Chancellor Keith Motley appears to be doing that, with the Urban Mission Coordinating Committee. The recommendation of the task force for the trustees to look into defining or re-defining the urban mission takes away from the Committee’s job, and undermines it. The faculty, staff, and administrators who work here should decide what the urban mission is, not a board of trustees, several of whom rarely make it to meetings.

UMass is comprised of people from different cultures and creeds, and is supposed to adhere to its rich tradition of diversity, and promote a multicultural environment for its employees and students. It hits closer than one would think, because it affects our community and touches a nerve in all of us, forcing us to think about cultural sensitivity. The administration appears now to recognize these concerns and has furthered the efforts toward a more diverse UMass Boston the hiring and promotion of new faculty and administrators with a clear vision for the campus. From now on, hopefully the questions of race and equality will not be overlooked or swept under the rug. It’s now recognized that these issues must be called to order immediately and handled in a timely fashion.