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UMass official draws fire over diversity plan

Amherst proposal seen as power grab

AMHERST -- University of Massachusetts students and faculty members yesterday criticized Chancellor John Lombardi's proposal to improve campus diversity, saying his plan would take too much power away from students.

Acknowledging the ''angst and pain and sense of alienation" that many students expressed over the topic, Lombardi said he will redraft his proposal and extend the public comment period on it -- first scheduled to end April 1 -- until April 22.

''Everybody's voice will be heard," Lombardi said after a Faculty Senate meeting attended by more than 100 students and professors.

The proposal Lombardi issued earlier this month would reallocate $800,000 from the campus budget to pay for programs designed to improve the academic performance of minority students and to recruit and retain a more diverse faculty.

The plan was offered four months after a drunken party where a group of students posed for photos with a caricature of a student government leader dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

A commission formed by Lombardi afterward identified a ''climate of distrust" on campus and said many students and faculty feel ''racially or ethnically isolated" at UMass.

Lombardi wants to create a Center for Student Development to address diversity issues and enhance student performance. His plan calls for hiring an associate vice chancellor and two directors to run the center.

Some critics expressed concern that the control of diversity issues would be taken away from the students. The proposal would also strip student government officials of their responsibility to fund and manage certain student support and advocacy programs.

The funding and oversight of those programs would come under the control of the administration, another move that critics say takes too much power from students.

''It takes a voice that has been independent and puts it under an administrative umbrella where it can be controlled," said Eduardo Bustamante, student government president.

Lombardi said his revised proposal and a counterproposal drafted by students will be posted on the school's website.

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