Mattapoisett School Committee member refutes allegations

Apr 12, 2021

A Mattapoisett School Committee member and UMass Dartmouth official has refuted allegations of discriminatory funding policies and other equality issues leveled at her by student leaders in a letter calling for her resignation earlier this month.

In the letter, the students called the University’s Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Dr. Shannon Finning “unfit to serve” in her current role, noting that policies at UMass Dartmouth “have caused trauma, violence, and harm, particularly to students of color.”

Among the allegations are that she hired police officers during the pandemic while staff members took pay cuts; that multicultural organizations’ budgets were “significantly cut” after changes to the student fee allocation process; that she increased policing of the Cedar Dell on-campus student accommodation; that student protesters were unfairly targeted; and that she neglected student needs and failed to discuss or address inequality issues when they came up.

Dr. Finning issued a statement through attorney Scott Dunlap on April 12 responding to the allegations.

“Until now, Dr. Finning has remained silent regarding the baseless accusations leveled against her,” the statement read. “Dr. Finning has cooperated fully with the University regarding these matters...The University found absolutely no evidence of financial impropriety, racial discrimination or animus. Furthermore, there has been no evidence of misconduct, and no disciplinary charges have been issued or are forthcoming.”

Dr. Finning is also a member of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee and serves on its Anti-Racism Subcommittee.

The statement went on to note that the vice chancellor “has been unfairly attacked, criticized, and mischaracterized” and that she has “a proven track record of going above and beyond for students and families, both in her professional capacity and as a member of a local school committee.”

Interim Chancellor Dr. Mark Fuller met with the students on April 2 to address their concerns about systemic racism on campus.

“I want to thank you for reaching out and sharing these experiences and ideas,” he wrote to them afterwards. “As you note in your letter, higher education institutions are struggling to fully understand and address the ways in which students — too many students — have been harmed by discrimination and institutional racism. UMass Dartmouth is not immune from this failure.”

“Our goal is to work with you to ensure that we have a Student Affairs operation that is transparent, responsive, inclusive, and student-centered,” Dr. Fuller wrote.

Dr. Finning has been the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UMass Dartmouth since 2018.

According to Dunlap’s statement, during her tenure she helped “dramatically improve” diversity and inclusion for university employees, increasing the number of UMass Dartmouth police officers identifying as Black, Indigenous or people of color by 150% as well as hiring the first female identified chief in UMass history.

The statement cited Interim Chancellor Mark Fuller as saying that “the Division of Student Affairs made significant strides to continuously improve the student life experience,” under Dr. Finning, including the addition of new staff to focus on the needs of underrepresented students.

Dr. Finning had already accepted a new position at a different school by the time the students’ letter was published, a move that is unrelated to the accusations against her, according to Dunlap’s statement. 

“She looks forward to serving students at her new institution with the professionalism, passion and enthusiasm which she has exhibited throughout her career,” the statement read.