Meehan, UMass Boston faculty at war
All three candidates for the UMass Boston chancellor position have withdrawn their names from consideration
This story was updated with information indicating the UMass Boston Faculty Council did not make disparaging comments about the three candidates for UMass Boston chancellor.
THE FACULTY AT UMASS BOSTON, angered and threatened by the purchase of Mount Ida College in Newton by UMass Amherst, retaliated by scuttling the search for a new chancellor at their own campus.
UMass President Marty Meehan announced on Monday that all three finalists for the Boston job had withdrawn their names from consideration after a group of faculty had openly said they weren’t qualified. The three finalists were Kathy Humphrey, the senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the board of trustees at the University of Pittsburgh; Peter Lyons, the vice provost and dean of Perimeter College at Georgia State University; and Jack Thomas, president of Western Illinois University.
In a letter to the UMass Boston community, Meehan said he was “mortified when the candidates’ commitment and qualifications were questioned in public forums, including the news media and social media.” He said a new search, given the way this one ended, was “untenable at this time” and announced that Katherine Newman, senior vice president for academic affairs, would fill in as chancellor for what could be a rather lengthy interim basis.
Heike Schotten, an associate professor of political science at UMass Boston and associate chair of the Faculty Council, said it was not the council that objected to the candidates, but an ad hoc group of 150 to 200 faculty members.
“I was really troubled by Henry Thomas’s response, mostly because it was filled with an enormous number of errors and a lot of insults and disrespect to us as a faculty,” Schotten said in a statement. “He basically accuses us of anti-black racism, all of which I find to be outrageous behavior on his part. I don’t remember Mr. Thomas once speaking to faculty, talking to us, reaching out to us, having a conversation with us.”
Schotten said African-American members of the faculty were among those who drafted the letter objecting to the three finalists.
Aaron Lecklier, associate professor of American studies and parliamentarian of the Faculty Council, said the faculty statements about the chancellor candidates did not come from the council..
Schotten and several of her colleagues said the chief objections to the search were that not enough faculty members were on the chancellor search committee (two of the 15 were faculty members) and that Meehan was trying to rush the selection through (Meehan labeled the seven-month search “an exhaustive, rigorous review”).
Reyes Coll-Tellechea, a professor in the Latin American and Iberian Studies department, said a faculty consensus emerged after a meeting on Friday “We were very honest for each other who could really, really grab the hand of the campus and push it forward, and after talking for three hours we determined that none of those candidates were that person,” she told State House News Service.
The Faculty Council did take took a vote of no confidence last week in Meehan and the university trustees for their handling of the Mount Ida purchase. It seemed as if that decision, made without consulting the UMass Boston community, may have factored in the faculty’s position on the three candidates for UMass Boston chancellor.
Joe Battenfeld, a columnist for the Boston Herald, said Meehan faces the biggest test of his three-year tenure at the helm of the UMass system. “Meehan is used to nasty infighting — he was a member of Congress — but not even then did he face this level of dysfunction,” Battenfeld wrote.