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At UMass Boston, courses abruptly canceled

Jonathan Wiggs

Without warning or consultation with faculty, the University of Massachusetts Boston has abruptly eliminated at least 20 courses set to be taught this summer, and more next fall, according to professors who teach them.

Faculty said the cuts will hamper some students’ ability to graduate on time. Many of the eliminated classes are required for graduation, or were full with students on a waiting list, they said.

Some professors objected to the cuts and last week were able to have certain classes reinstated. But they still faulted the administration’s actions.

“The frenzied nature and the lack of consulting with the relative departments is pretty frustrating,” said Tim Hacsi, history department chairman. Two professors in his department will work for free this summer to supervise internships because the administration said it wouldn’t pay them, he said.


“You have people advising students to take classes that won’t be there in the fall,” said Marlene Kim, an economics professor. “It doesn’t seem to me that cuts are being made with consideration of the needs of the students.”

A UMass spokesman on Friday said administrators have reduced the number of summer classes by approximately 20, although according to professors that number could be higher. He declined to address the abrupt nature of the announcements. It was unclear how many fall courses will be cut.

The cuts come as the university faces a structural operating deficit of up to $30 million this fiscal year. Amid controversy over who is responsible for the financial mess, Chancellor J. Keith Motley announced last week that he would resign June 30 after 10 years as chancellor.

Motley’s departure followed a move last month by the central UMass office to install Barry Mills, the former president of Bowdoin College, as deputy chancellor on campus to oversee the daily operations and manage the deficit.


The majority-minority university, which has 16,847 students this year, has taken several measures to cut costs, beginning last summer with a move to lay off a number of adjunct professors. On April 1 the school laid off seven janitors, according to the union that represents them.

The university has also instituted a hiring freeze, but in some cases has continued to hire nevertheless. Last week it named Tom Sannicandro, a former state legislator from Ashland, as director of UMass Boston’s Institute for Community Inclusion. He will earn $165,000, but his position is funded by grants, according to DeWayne Lehman, a university spokesman.

Lehman also said the university has eliminated 13 janitorial positions in the past year.

“These are just a couple of the reductions we’ve made as we continue to address our fiscal challenges,” he said in an e-mail.

Many of the cuts that happened over the past week appear to be the result of decisions made within the College of Advancing and Professional Studies, which organizes online, weekend, professional, and summer classes from a variety of disciplines across the university.

For example, on March 31 the professors who run the Masters in School Counseling and Mental Health Counseling programs were notified by CAPS that the majority of their summer classes had been canceled.

That was especially disturbing, one professor said, because the program is in the midst of accepting up to 40 new students for its online counseling programs and those students are supposed to come to UMass in June for a two-week orientation.


Sharon Lamb, director of the Mental Health Graduate Program, and her colleagues wrote a letter to administrators the week after they learned of the cuts and were able to have many of the classes reinstated. According to their letter, the counseling programs bring in $1.5 million per year.

“Decisions sometimes get made very quickly and communicated very quickly when there could have been dialogue beforehand,” Lamb said.

Mills, the new deputy chancellor, appears to have come to the rescue in several cases. Lamb said she e-mailed Mills about the situation and he wrote back right away.

Aaron Lecklider, chairman of the American studies department, also appealed to Mills when he found out that a popular summer program in partnership with the nearby John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum was considered for cancellation. The program is a two-week intensive course for graduate students and teachers that this year will focus on race in American society.

“Within less than 24 hours, I received assurance that the university absolutely would not be cutting this valued partnership. This was, needless to say, welcome news,” Lecklider wrote in an e-mail Friday.

A call to Mills Friday was not returned. A request for comment from the dean of CAPS, Philip DiSalvio, was also not returned.

Other summer and fall classes appear to have been canceled in economics, history, and computer science, according to professors in those departments.

The economics department had seven courses cut for the fall, including two that were full and had waiting lists, said Kim, the economics professor.


Kim also sent a letter to administrators last week to complain, and ultimately three of the seven were reinstated, she said. There is also a move underway to lay off some non-tenure-track faculty said Kim, who is president of the Faculty Staff Union.

The letter said the department was instructed to cut courses taught by adjunct professors, who earn about $5,000 per class. But with 35 to 40 students per class, the classes generate revenue, the letter said.

Kim said the whole situation has made for a chaotic environment in departments as professors try to determine how many students they can accept for next year and what classes they can promise them.

Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.