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May 18, 2022_Ex Com E-Vote- Africana Studies Department Resolution


E-vote on Ex Comm response to the Provost regarding Africana Studies. Vote passes (11 in favor).

From: Steve Striffler <>

Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2022 5:58 PM

To: Caroline Coscia <>; Sana Haroon <>; Lynne B Benson <>; Jeffrey Melnick <>; Faculty Staff Union <>; D'Urso, Katie <>

Cc: Dana Commesso <>; Jessica R Holden <>; Jose Martinez-Reyes <>; Linda Ai-Yun Liu <>; Meghan E Kallman <>; Monique Fuguet <>; Tim Sieber <>; Travis Johnston <>

Subject: Semi-Urgent Vote - FSU Ex-Comm - response to Provost on Africana Studies

Hi all,

The attached is a response – which (pending your approval) would come from the Executive Committees of the FSU, FC, and CLA Senate (assuming their ex-comms approve!) --  to the Provost’s memo from yesterday regarding Africana Studies (also attached).   I’ve also pasted below the Resolution passed by both the FC and the CLA Senate.   The attached response lays out the problems with the Provost’s memo, but the unstated one is that Africana Studies is justifiably worried that faculty will read the Provost’s memo and assume the Provost has properly dealt with Africana Studies – when in fact his response completely ignores the core concerns raised by the dept and the Resolution.

I don’t think we can really edit the letter much, in part because we are trying to produce something that works from FC and the CLA Senate – but if you see something really objectionable do say. 

What we are probably talking about is an up or down vote to approve or not.   Your call!   Happy to answer questions.  I realize this is a bit out of the blue… largely developed today.


The Faculty Council

Resolution on Africana Studies Department

Whereas:  Since 2017 the Africana Studies Department has been reduced from seven full-time, tenure track faculty, to 1.5 full-time tenure track faculty in 2022, which renders the department unable to fulfill numerous fundamental academic functions such as curriculum development and delivery, student advising, personnel reviews, class schedules, as well as minimum service responsibilities at the department, college, university, and community levels.

Whereas this situation has a direct impact on the ability of Africana Studies students to complete graduation requirements on a timely manner.

Whereas: This situation exerts extraordinary pressure on junior, senior, and non-tenure-track faculty and negatively impacts their research, teaching, and service performance, further weakening their chances to succeed and advance their careers through tenure and promotion.

Whereas:  In Fall 2020, the former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts championed approval of two faculty searches for the department for Fall 2021 hires.

Whereas:  The Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts informed the Africana Studies Department that its searches were blocked by the former Provost in Spring 2021. 

Whereas: In Fall 2021, the new Provost restored the two faculty searches to Africana Studies for Fall 2022 hires.

Whereas: In October 2021, the new Dean of Liberal Arts rejected the search committee already established by both the former and Interim Deans with department consultation, who created a new search committee without departmental consultation; rejected the fundamentals of shared faculty governance; and rejected the inclusion of a faculty member from the College of Education serving on the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) search committee.

Whereas: In December, 2021 the new search committee submitted the list of semi-finalist candidates from a pool of more than 50 national applicants to be screened, to create finalist candidates for campus interviews as prescribed by the Dean of Faculty Training.

Whereas: This list sat in the Provost’s office without action for two months. 

Whereas: The search committee followed normal procedures of all UMB searches, Zoom interviewing semi-finalists, and producing a list of finalist candidates to be considered for campus interviews. 

Whereas: In March 2022, the Dean of CLA announced the cancellation of the search alleging the search committee did not transform the semi-finalist list into a finalist list and had submitted the list of candidates to be interviewed on campus using ordinal numbers (1,2,3,4) instead of (a,b,c,d).

And Whereas: The Department of Africana Studies has requested that the two searches be immediately reinstated and finalized before the next academic year to ease the extraordinary burden currently carried by resident faculty, to rebuild the academic unit, and continue its fundamental role within CLA.

Be it resolved that the Faculty Council affirms and supports the Africana Studies Department’s urgent and reasonable request that the Dean of Liberal Arts and the University Provost immediately reopen the search for two tenure track lines and finalize them before the start of the academic year 2022-2023.


Be it further resolved that the Faculty Council affirms the urgency that our university’s governance bodies explicitly address the Africana Studies Department’s longstanding demands beyond the reopening of the two faculty tenure track searches.

Dear Colleagues,

As the Executive Committees of the FSU, Faculty Council, and College of Liberal Arts Senate, we write in response to Provost Berger’s May 17th memo regarding Africana Studies and the Trotter Institute that was sent via email to the entire campus (see also attached).

The Faculty Council and the CLA Senate passed identical resolutions – which were distributed to all faculty by the FSU -- conveying to the Provost the importance of re-instating the two cancelled searches for new faculty in Africana Studies (see attached). While the Provost acknowledged receipt of these resolutions, he did not respond in any way to their content.

This non-response is replicated and magnified in the Provost’s recent all-campus memo, which ignores completely the actual concerns raised by the Africana Studies Department and Search Committee regarding the cancelled hires. Specifically, the Provost’s memo fails to address why two searches were abruptly cancelled and why they cannot be immediately re-started when the needs of the department are so urgent.  All of us – the Africana Studies Department, the Africana Studies Search Committee, the FSU, the FC, and the CLA Senate – continue to await a substantive response to this question.

While the memo paints a rosy picture of Administration’s ostensible commitment to Africana Studies and the Trotter Institute, there is actually very little new information or commitment contained in this memo. In our view, this memo functions to ignore the cancellation of the hires—and the Provost’s ignoring of faculty concerns about these cancellations—via a recycling of old information that does not address the immediate needs of the department or the erosion of shared governance and faculty autonomy that the cancellation of the two hires represents.

In 2017, the Africana Studies Department had the equivalent of 7 full-time tenure-line faculty.  Today, the department has 1.5 faculty.  This represents a clear dis-investment in Africana Studies since 2017.  As presented in the memo, the Provost’s proposal for Africana Studies includes only 3 new hires, which would bring the department up to 4.5. And these hires are themselves premised on the unspoken presumption that Administration will not cancel these searches as they already have done—twice in two years

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the memo does not explain why the Administration continues to refuse to meet with either the Africana Studies Department to discuss how the department defines its own needs or the Search Committee to find a way to continue the current searches. Regardless of whatever promises are made in this memo, they were not made in consultation with or response to the actual needs, concerns, or requests of faculty in Africana Studies. Moreover, they are at direct odds with the resolutions passed by the relevant faculty representative bodies, who – along with the FSU -- stand in solidarity with Africana Studies and reject the paternalistic, overbearing, and near-dictatorial decision-making happening at the helm of this university. Moreover, the hiring of lawyers to “assess” Africana Studies and the Trotter Institute is a hostile action that undermines academic freedom and shared governance and shows the weakness of an administration that knows no other strategy for working with faculty to forge agreed-upon courses of action other than to call in outside parties and/or rely on the sheer exercise of unaccountable power.

It is difficult to understand how such administrative overreach—particularly in response to its Africana Studies department—is compatible with an “anti-racist and health-promoting” agenda for this institution.



May 17, 2022

MEMORANDUM FOR: UMass Boston Faculty

FROM: Joseph B. Berger, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

SUBJECT: Africana Studies and Trotter Institute

In recent months, questions have been raised about the future of the Africana Studies Department and the Trotter Institute. I write to assure you today that the Department and the Institute remain essential and are a high priority to UMass Boston.

I appreciate that there are real concerns about the viability of both units in the context of immediate needs and long-term planning. I also recognize that for the Department and the Institute to contribute to advancing the University’s academic, scholarly, and service mission, they require additional resources. UMass Boston is committed to providing such resources immediately and long-term.

Since last fall, we have explored how best to reallocate limited university resources toward this goal. A proposal for the future of the Trotter Institute, put forward by a committee co-led by the Black Faculty, Staff, and Student Association, included a minimum operating budget of $70,000, appointment of three academic faculty members (tenured director, associate director, research assistant professor), three permanent professional staff, and two graduate assistantships. This would require an investment of approximately $800,000 per year.

We are already advancing these plans and investments for the Trotter Institute, and I am pleased that Professors Michael Johnson and Mickaella Perina have agreed to lead the transition of the Trotter Institute as co-chairs of a transition committee. The Trotter has continued some of its work, including work with Boston Public Schools through its partnership as part of the CANALA centers and institutes. I thank Professor Denise Patmon for her leadership of that work.

We also need to invest further in Africana Studies, and it has been clear Africana Studies can benefit from bringing in senior scholars in addition to early-career faculty members. While we have already begun to invest in Africana Studies, including a $75,000 innovation fund for the department for AY21-22 – the only department to receive such a fund this year—and the approval of a full-time administrative assistant for the department, more is clearly needed.

Immediately, I am committed to making current and future investments totaling approximately $1.2 million, with more to follow pending the findings of the assessment. These include:

For Africana Studies:

  • Hiring a senior scholar
  • Hiring two tenure-track faculty positions in Africana Studies, one open rank and one assistant professor

For the Trotter Institute:

  • Hiring a new director; this position will be filled through a broad national search for an established tenured senior scholar.
  • Hiring a new staff member to support grant-writing, communications, and collaboration with the other CANALA centers and institutes
  • Funding a graduate assistantship
  • Increasing operational funding specifically in addition to increased funding for the CANALA group of centers and institutes
  • As noted above, implementing a transition committee to be coordinated by Michael Johnson and Mickaella Perina, who will serve as co-chairs until a new director has been installed.

With a view to examining the challenges that have led to high staff turnover, we have retained outside expertise --attorneys Walter Prince, Dan Tarlow and Ralph Martin, who have assisted other higher education clients in reviewing faculty, research, academic, and student-related functions.

As I have noted previously in discussions regarding the Trotter Institute and Department of Africana Studies, I reiterate my gratitude and thanks to the Africana Studies department chairs and faculty, the Africana Studies search committee, and the cross-campus Trotter model taskforce for their service and ongoing contributions.

The university’s initial commitment of a minimum of $1.2 million to Africana Studies and the Trotter Institute is a significant investment, and it is the right thing to do. In the meantime, we look forward to the results of the ongoing assessment to help determine additional investments and steps for ensuring that we have a thriving Africana Studies Department and Trotter Institute.