Letter To The Editor: Student Leaders Call for Vice Chancellor Finning’s Resignation

Letter to The Editor Written by:

Liz Anusauskas: eanusauskas@umassd.edu
Tatiana DosSantos: tdossantos@umassd.edu
Jasmine Jenkins: jjenkins1@umassd.edu
Dakeyla Johnson: djohnson11@umassd.edu
Isabelle Joseph: ijoseph@umassd.edu
Pearl McCarthy: pamonumccarthy@umassd.edu

Introduction Written By

Editor-In-Chief: James Mellen

Jmellen@Umassd.edu

Today, March 31st 2021, six students sent a letter to Chancellor Mark Fuller and Deputy Chancellor Mark Preble demanding the immediate resignation of Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Shannon Finning. The students who drafted and sent this letter include the 2021 class president, the Student Government Association President, and a former student trustee. The letter lays out twelve specific complaints regarding the performance of the Vice Chancellor, as well as four recommended steps to be followed by the UmassD administration.


The letter is sent the day after the news of Vice Chancellor Finning’s planned resignation in June, although the letter was drafted before this news was made public. Vice Chancellor Finning has decided to leave UmassD in order to pursue a new opportunity at Massachusetts Maritime Academy as per an email delivered to the UmassD student body on March 30th.

The stated purpose of this letter is not only to ask for the resignation of Vice Chancellor Finning, but also a call for the UmassD administration to be transparent and accountable. Especially in regards to issues of race and inclusivity at the University.


The Torch was able to acquire the letter written by the six students, and signed by over 50 students and alum. The Torch, as well as the UmassD student body is eagerly awaiting a public response (which will be preceded by Torch coverage) from Chancellor Fuller, Deputy Chancellor Prebble and Vice Chancellor Finning.

____________________________________

A transcription of the letter to the editor written by these students follows below:

Dear Interim Chancellor Mark Fuller, Deputy Chancellor Mark Preble, and UMass Dartmouth
Community Members,

“[We] are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Fanny Lou Hamer 1964.

The undersigned students of UMass Dartmouth are tired of being ignored. Year after year students have called out specific instances of discrimination and institutional racism and have shared action steps on how to address some of these concerns. We are tired of waiting for accountability and hope that by making our concerns and demands public, we can collectively begin to transform the systems across UMass Dartmouth that have caused trauma, violence, and harm, particularly to students of color.

“Based on the lived experiences of students who have interacted with UMass Dartmouth:

We call for the immediate resignation of Dr. Shannon Finning, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. We recognize that she will be stepping into a new role at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, but we believe that the only way for our community to begin healing is for her to resign, effective immediately. Dr. Finning has continued to ignore calls from students and faculty to address systemic racism at UMass Dartmouth. She has perpetuated these systems by sowing division within the campus community, avoiding our attempts at change, and maintaining a toxic status quo. We cite these behaviors specifically that make Dr. Shannon Finning unfit to serve as Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs:

A. An inability to prioritize the needs of students and staff by hiring police officers in the middle of the pandemic while staff members across campus took pay cuts to ensure there were no layoffs.

B. A lack of accountability when multicultural organizations asked for clarification as to why their budgets were significantly cut following a revision to the SFAC process. Dr .Finning denied involvement in the creation of the SFAC-Finning Edition, which gravely impacted students of color, only to find out half a year later that she had been deflecting blame and fault when she had led efforts to make changes to this process the whole time. In relation to the SFAC process Dr. Finning should be held accountable for:

  • 1. The misuse and abuse of student funds, that her office oversees the distribution of, without the acknowledgment & permission of said Students.
  • 2. The diversion of student funds that were not approved by the student body or representatives of the student body.

C. A lack of professionalism when students attempted to call out unequal treatment of students and organizations.

D. An inability to separate her personal viewpoints from her decision-making and communication with students/staff.

E. The use of her power and job to enact her own agendas against students as well as instilling fear within faculty and staff preventing them from supporting students.

  • 1. This has been made apparent in the stressful environment Residential Assistants and Residential Directors have had to work in.

F. The direction of actions that resulted in increased policing of the Dells, the implementation of a security booth, and the shutdown of all transportation throughout the Dells. These actions were directed by her as a result of her one time visit to the Dells.

G. A lack of recognition in the repercussions students will experience by deciding to shut down a housing facility that has been offered as a less expensive option for upperclass students.

H. The advent of uncomfortableness students of color feel around her leading to her racist actions and decisions.

I. The intentional, targeted attacks towards the former Student Trustee Amanda Kuffoh.

J. The neglect of student needs after they were made clear and demanded.

K. The targeting and hunting of students in response to students’ right to protest which was used as a form of retaliation.

Recognizing the need to move forward, the undersigned students recommend the following next steps be taken immediately. However, this list is not exhaustive.

1. A pause on the search for the Assistant Vice Chancellor position until Dr. Shannon Finning has resigned.

2. A reevaluation of the the following policies which the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs should have supported students in changing:

  • A. The flag policy that has prevented the Black Lives Matter flag from being flown and the LGBTQIA+ inclusive flag to be hung
  • B. The Division of Student Affairs Student Event Policy that has led to events hosted by organizations of color being more heavily policed than SAIL events
  • C. The policies that protect tenured faculty from being held fully accountable for racist remarks and/or creating a racist and hostile environment for students
  • D. The policies that relate to allocation of student funds that do not encourage equity and transparency.

3. A reexamination of all departments: student based, faculty based, and staff based, to reanalyze how their departments are perpetuating systemic racism, how these decisions and behaviors can be changed, and a public documentation of a plan to move forward with these changes.

  • A. We recognize that higher education institutions around the world struggle with addressing all the ways these institutions cause harm and negatively impact students which is why we are calling upon departments to take the time to reevaluate their work to make recommendations for themselves on change and collaboration with other departments to encourage real change throughout campus.

4. A follow-up to the Faculty Senate, Diversity Council, and Student Government Association about the three resolutions that have been sent to the Chancellor’s Office this past year: Police Review and Reallocation of Resources and Money Resolution by the SGA, Resolution to Make Changes to the UMass Dartmouth COIN System by the SGA, and the resolution with recommendations from the Faculty Senate’s Ad Hoc PoliceReview and Racial Equity Committee The undersigned students of UMass Dartmouth want action and accountability. We know that the multitude of students across campus deserve better from their administrators. We also recognize that these systems of corruption and oppression are part of the larger challenges that higher institutions face as institutions that have been around for decades and were not designed to support the diversity of students UMass Dartmouth consists of now. We believe that these are only a few of the many steps UMass Dartmouth must take if it is going to be able to support the rising rate of students of color on campus as well as address the systemic racism across campus.

We insist that you act on these demands as soon as possible. With hope for a better experience for current and future students at UMass Dartmouth,”

Liz Anusauskas- Student Government Association President
Tatiana DosSantos- Student Representative for Crime and Justice Studies
Jasmine Jenkins- Student Government Association Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusion Committee Chair
Dakeyla Johnson- Former Student Trustee
Isabelle Joseph- Student Government Association Corresponding Secretary
Pearl McCarthy- Class of 2021 President

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