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The Point: The Cost of a Hostile Takeover?


Greetings, Colleagues:

Subject: The Continued Attack on our Africana Studies Department

Action Item: Support the co-sponsored resolution that the FSU Executive Committee and the Africana Studies Department will be bringing to the Faculty Council Meeting on November 7th

We wrote a few weeks ago to make sure all of our members were up to date on the injuries and insults that upper administration on our campus has been visiting upon our colleagues and students in the Africana Studies Department—the cancelled job searches, the removal of the elected chair, the demotion and pay cut for an esteemed NTT colleague, and much more.

More recent developments make it clear that this is, as our colleague and former Africana Studies Department member Professor Elizabeth Sweet put it in a recent Bay State Banner article, a “hostile takeover.” 

So, first things first, as our title question indicates—what does a hostile takeover cost these days? 

The short answer is: over $150,000. 

You read that right.

Direct evidence suggests that from late January through early September of this year, the strongly management-side law firm of Prince Lobel Tye was paid regularly and handsomely to “assess” the Africana Studies Department.  “It’s very strange,” as our recently retired colleague Tim Sieber suggested in the Banner piece, that administration “would contract with an expensive law firm to come up with a report that validates their long-term stereotypes of the department.”  Turns out that “confirmation of priors” is a pricey menu item at downtown law firms these days.

Close your eyes for a second and let yourself think about how you would disburse 150K on our campus, if it were yours to spend.  Think about the whispers so many of us have been hearing about widespread cancellation of NTT-taught sections this coming spring even though enrollments are robust. 

But as grievous as the $150,000+ is, it only tells a part of the story. 

We have not been able to find anyone on campus who can remember any other time when the upper administration hired an outside law firm to investigate an academic department or unit.  It seems to be unprecedented.  And while the provost has suggested in an email to the community that the law firm worked on the case for five months of  “research, interviews and independent assessment” and the executive summary from the law firm itself claims they began work in April, there is convincing evidence that the contracted period actually stretched from late January to early September. And there is good reason to question the putative “independence” of the investigation as well.  It becomes harder and harder to credit official proclamations being handed down on this matter when we cannot even get clarity on essential matters such as timeline and basic protocols of the investigation.

We are currently at a very strange crossroads.  Our university has paid a whole pile of money to management-side lawyers to…take the side of management in an effort to legitimize their continued dismantling of the Africana Studies Department. This should be one of the most robust departments on our “antiracist” campus, and its gutting should concern us all.  We all must stand with our colleagues first and foremost because it is the right thing to do. But we would all be very naïve if we did not see this attack on a vulnerable department as a roadmap of sorts, an announcement of a new modus operandi in campus operations. It would be willful to think that administration will stop here as they invent new ways to ignore and silence the faculty voice that is so central to shared governance.

The Executive Committee of the FSU has recently voted to support a resolution to be brought to the Faculty Council Meeting on November 7 at 1 p.m. The resolution quite simply asks the Faculty Council to “reaffirm that per the Academic Personnel Policy of UMass Boston and UMass Amherst…’faculty has primary responsibility in matters of faculty status, such as appointments, reappointments, tenure and salary adjustments’” and to “insist that the Africana Studies Department play a significant role in constituting the search committee in order to properly begin the process of recruiting new colleagues to the department.”

Please come to the meeting and speak in favor of the motion, if you can; if you cannot, please write to the chancellor, provost, and CLA dean to let them know you support it.

This is your union. Please let us know at how you think we can all best support our colleagues in Africana Studies.


The Communications Committee

For information on the FSU, links to our contract and bargaining updates, and a calendar of events, see the FSU webpage