On April 12, the University of Massachusetts Boston Board of Trustees held a meeting in the Ballroom at the Campus Center. Apart from secondary reports, the most discussed topics of this public event were the recent resignation of UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley and the university’s budget issues.
While some members of the board and other university officials addressed these controversies, six public speakers were also given time to give their input. Throughout most of this meeting, protesters were present as well, holding up signs criticizing the leadership’s handling of the budget crisis.
In his opening remarks, Chairman Robert J. Manning spoke of Motley’s dedication to the university and thanked him for his service of the past years.
“He is the most inspiring person that I’ve ever met,” he stated during his remarks.
He also emphasized that UMass Boston’s newest personnel addition Barry Mills, who is chief operating officer and deputy chancellor, will continue to support the school’s mission.
Manning stated, “He loves this campus.” He continued by comparing Mills to a guarding angel, and said, “He is here for one reason only: to help us.”
UMass President Marty Meehan expressed his gratitude toward Motley and described him as “an incredible leader and [an] individual of integrity.” Furthermore, Meehan addressed the financial issues, saying that steps have already been taken to reduce the projected deficit, giving an optimistic outlook into the university’s future.
“Exploring UMass Boston’s challenges is an opportunity to explore what makes UMass Boston great.”
UMass Boston Student Trustee Pantea Fatemi Ardestani spoke to the present university leaders and the audience. During her remarks, she took a strong stance in support of Chancellor Motley, recalling his accomplishments and his connection with the whole Umass Boston student body.
“Motley will be remembered for his vision," said Ardestani.
However, Ardestani also expressed her concerns for how UMass Boston has been portrayed in the media in the most recent months and weeks, especially the coverage of the ongoing construction and the budget deficit. She explained that renovations and new buildings on campus were “long overdue,” and that debt “is not a novelty to public schools.”
She added that despite Motley’s negative media coverage and the recent lack of support to achieve the university’s urban mission, ”students stand united for what we have earned.”
After these board members, public speakers from the audience were given time to speak out about these issues. Marlene Kim, the President of the Faculty Staff Union, expressed her concerns about the large number of classes that have recently been cancelled, which makes it more difficult for students to graduate on time. Kim also criticized the “lack of faculty input” during this whole process.
“This is not the direction we want to go," said Kim.
Tom Goodkind, President of the Professional Staff, said that the “board must take responsibility” for the ongoing fiscal issues, and that students, faculty, staff, and other workers on campus should not be blamed. Goodkind also pointed to the importance of Umass Boston as an educational institution, and described the school as “a flagship” in regards to student diversity and inclusion.
The third public speaker Renata Teodoro, who is a UMass Boston student and a part of the Immigrant Student Task Force, also urged the university to protect students who could be targeted by ICE in the future. Furthermore, she also expressed the need for more clarity and transparency about procedures, and encouraged the university to not act as “ICE enforcers” by providing information about students or access on campus.
Janelle Quarles, the President of the Classified Staff Union, said that she is concerned about the “lack of respect for the very people who make this place function,” recalling issues in transparency and communication of information.
Additionally, biology professor and Chair of the Faculty Council at UMass Boston Manickam Sugumaran said that, hopefully in the future, the Board will offer its support for the university’s mission.
Lastly, surprise attendee and State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, who is representing the First Suffolk District, expressed her support for the students and faculty, as well as her support for Chancellor Motley. She described it as “troubling how Chancellor Motley was discredited and treated badly.” She further asked the Board to reconsider his resignation because “for eleven years, he helped build this campus.”
In light of the criticism surrounding the creation of new campus building, she stated, “We like construction.” The Senator also criticized the overall UMass System for having “ignored this campus in Dorchester” for the past few decades.
“We need to embrace all the campuses, and do right by all of them," said Forry.