STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 21, 2018 (State House News Service) – The three finalists to become the next University of Massachusetts Boston chancellor each withdrew from consideration over the weekend, citing “extreme disappointment” with actions by the school’s faculty council, according to UMass President Marty Meehan.
On Monday — the same day trustees were originally scheduled to vote on a chancellor — Meehan wrote an email to members of the UMass Boston community, detailing what he described as “an unceremonious end” to the seven-month search and announcing the appointment of a new interim chancellor.
Katherine Newman, UMass’s senior vice president for academic affairs, will move into the role when the current interim chancellor, Barry Mills, steps down at the end of the academic year.
A former provost at UMass Amherst, Newman will serve as interim chancellor for “as long as needed,” said Meehan. In a letter to the UMass Boston community, Meehan on Monday wrote that he plans to consult with trustees to “consider an appropriate time frame to return to a search for a permanent chancellor.”
“Following the campus visits by the three finalists last week, the UMass Boston Faculty Council decided to take their dissatisfaction with the candidates public, questioning the personal and professional qualifications of three accomplished higher education leaders and demonstrating that the faculty council would not participate in the kind of partnership necessary for a new chancellor to succeed,” Meehan wrote. “Over the weekend, all three candidates informed me of their extreme disappointment with those actions and that they were no longer interested in being considered to lead the campus as chancellor.”
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.
The campus visits followed a May 14 vote of the UMass Boston Faculty Council declaring no confidence in Meehan and the trustees over a deal through which UMass Amherst acquired the campus of the now-defunct Mount Ida College. The declaration said the purchase would “inaugurate an inter-campus model of competition, rather than collaboration.”
Meehan said in his letter that he was “mortified when the candidates’ commitment and qualifications were questioned in public forums, including the news media and social media.”
“I have apologized personally to each of them on behalf of the campus community,” he wrote. “I know the majority of you do not support the sensationalized critiques of these candidates’ professional and academic qualifications and accomplishments.”
Meehan said the search that yielded the three finalists was “exhaustive and comprehensive,” considering both traditional and non-traditional candidates. Reopening the search now would be a “futile exercise,” he said.
“There is no untapped pool of talent awaiting a call,” Meehan wrote. “But perhaps more significant, the very public way this search came to an end, with three finalists all withdrawing in the face of public opposition from members of the campus, renders a new search untenable at this time.”
UMass trustee Henry Thomas, who chaired the chancellor search committee, issued a statement calling it “deeply disappointing…to see a small but vocal group of members of the UMass Boston community take their criticism of the candidates public, issuing statements directly to the media and airing specific criticisms on social media.”
“We find it particularly appalling that a faculty council representing a majority-minority campus but lacking a single African-American member would visit such disrespect and calumny on one of the country’s few African-American sitting college presidents, a top African-American female university leader and an academic administrator from an institution that graduates more African-Americans than any college or university in the country,” Thomas wrote.