Mattapoisett School Committee member under fire from UMass Dartmouth student leaders

Apr 5, 2021

MATTAPOISETT — Student leaders at UMass Dartmouth have published a letter this week calling for Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Dr. Shannon Finning — who is also a member of the Old Rochester Regional and Mattapoisett School Committees — to resign for failing to address the community’s concerns with systemic racism at the school.

In a letter sent to local media contacts and published in student newspaper The Torch, six student leaders — including Student Government Association President Liz Anusauskas and Class of 2021 President Pearl McCarthy — asked university officials for Dr. Finning’s immediate resignation, calling her “unfit to serve” in her current role.

Several dozen students were named as supporters at the end of the letter.

“The undersigned students of UMass Dartmouth are tired of being ignored,” the student leaders wrote. “Year after year students have called out specific instances of discrimination and institutional racism...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.”

Dr. Finning, who serves on the ORR School Committee’s Anti-Racism Subcommittee, has been the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UMass Dartmouth since 2018.

Although the students noted that Dr. Finning will be leaving the university for Massachusetts Maritime Academy in the near future, they wrote, “we believe that the only way for our community to begin healing is for her to resign, effective immediately.”

In the letter the students included a list of eleven specific grievances with Dr. Finning’s leadership.

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.

The students also called for the university to reevaluate specific policies that exacerbate inequality, reexamine how its departments are perpetuating systemic racism, and come up with a plan to move forward with changes.

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

“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.”

Action items he outlined included hiring an Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, conducting a needs analysis with input from students, faculty and staff, and raising the Chief Diversity Officer to a Cabinet-level position.

“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.

He did not mention Dr. Finning.

Neither Dr. Finning nor the student leaders could be reached for comment.