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Dissent grows on changes at UMass

Faculty to weigh in on president

Faculty at the University of Massachusetts at Boston have called for a vote tomorrow on the leadership of the system's president, Jack M. Wilson, in a sign of growing discontent with his proposed shakeup of university leadership.

The decision to schedule a vote follows a resounding vote of no confidence in Wilson and the university's board of trustees passed last week by faculty at UMass- Amherst and intensifies the growing controversy surrounding Wilson and his plans to centralize the five-campus system.

UMass-Amherst professors denounced Wilson and the trustees for discussing the plans in a private meeting and for failing to consult with faculty on the proposed reorganization, which would result in the departure of popular chancellor John Lombardi at the end of the next school year.

UMass-Boston faculty will vote on a similar no-confidence measure that would express "particular concern about the illegitimate lack of consultation of faculty and other university constituencies in developing the Vision for One University plan," according to a copy of the resolution obtained by the Globe.

Vision for One University is Wilson's plan to consolidate leadership of the five campuses, creating a streamlined system in hope of boosting efficiency and collaboration and forging a more cohesive, powerful university.

But UMass-Boston faculty leaders see the centralization as a threat to their school's independence and identity. Tomorrow, they will also vote on a second resolution to oppose consolidation efforts because they "diminish, detract from, obfuscate, or undermine the urban mission of UMass-Boston."

Lois Rudnick, chairwoman of the American studies department at UMass-Boston, said Wilson's model treats the city campus as a lesser stepchild, which could detract from its central mission to educate less affluent students.

"It's a move that's incredibly insulting to the faculty and may well diminish what we can offer to our students," she said. "We read this as code that we're going to get even less than we're getting now."

Robert Connolly, a spokesman for Wilson, said that the faculty's fears of reduced autonomy were baseless.

"If people are fearing undue centralization, they shouldn't," he said.

"No one is saying Boston should look just like Amherst," he added.

While the past week has been "one of turmoil," he said, many faculty members have grown more receptive to the proposal after learning more details in recent days. "The waters have substantially calmed," Connolly said.

Wilson strongly supports UMass-Boston's urban mission, he said. Connolly added that the proposed changes are only being considered and that many consolidation measures, such as a common application process for students of all UMass campuses, have been discussed for years.

"It remains our strongly held point of view that there are no aspects of the proposal that should be viewed as sprung on people at the last minute," he said.

UMass-Boston faculty will also consider a measure calling for Governor Deval Patrick to appoint a commission to investigate the actions of the board of trustees.

Wilson met with university trustees to discuss the restructuring proposal on May 3.

Faculty members say the meeting violated state law requiring that meetings affecting the public interest to be open. School officials said the meeting violated no laws because no decisions were made.

Under the proposal, Michael Collins, now chancellor of UMass-Boston, would become interim chancellor at the medical school, while J. Keith Motley, the system's assistant vice president for business and marketing, would become the Boston chancellor.

The UMass-Boston vote will be held at the end of a scheduled meeting with Wilson tomorrow afternoon on the Boston campus.

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com.

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