Dear Governor Patrick:
I am a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I was there when you addressed us at the Higher Ed Summit and said that you would be the champion of higher education. I'm asking you to step up to the plate now. The University system is in crisis due to the recent actions of President Wilson and the Board of Trustees -- and the ouster of Chancellor Lombardi. I call on you to dissolve the Board of Trustees of the University and appoint a new board that can establish an open, accountable, and democratic process to examine the current actions and recommend a path forward.
When President Wilson spoke to the faculty yesterday, he repeated a mantra that he was "proposing a process", yet he had already forced out our chancellor without consultation of our legislative delegation, faculty, staff, or students -- when the outcome is predetermined, it does not seem like it is merely a "process". When asked to explain this "process" or his vision for the university system, President Wilson could offer no meaningful statement of goals or values. It seems clear to me that he had been planning to spring this takeover at the trustee meeting on June 21st, by which time half the local population and many of the stakeholders would have left town. Furthermore, when the plan became public, I believe he exhibited a serious lack of judgment to try to push it through in a half-baked form. President Wilson is only the most visible part of the problem, however.
Last week, I met with the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Steve Tocco, when he came to speak at Amherst. He said a number of things that seriously disturbed me -- in particular, when we discussed moving the agenda of the University forward, Chairman Tocco said that the University needed to have business leaders carry the agenda forward, because when faculty speak, it is dismissed as a labor issue. His advice might be a useful statement, in a de_facto sense, in the same way someone might say, "you need an adult to say that, because no one listens to teenagers". The University is being systematically crippled by its increasing subordination to a few corporate interests in the state, rather than being empowered to act as an independent community of scholars in the pursuit of knowledge. The University can and does act as an economic engine for the state, but also holds the potential to offer a separate voice, that can look beyond purely economic interests. Unfortunately, I believe this voice is being choked off by the current Board.
As Secretary of the Amherst Democratic Town Committee, I first met you when you came to speak in Amherst at our invitation a year before your election. I stood with you in Springfield as the Vice President of the Massachusetts Society of Professors, when we endorsed your candidacy before the primary. My wife, an Amherst elected official, has been very inspired by the remarks you've made to the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and at Senator Stan Rosenberg's Municipal Conference. We are very committed to our local community and the success of the University system. I understand that you're incredibly busy, but I call on you now to step into this crisis and act in the interests of the University. We need to have an open, accountable, and democratic process for exploring any new governance structure -- not a palace coup. Please don't let this process go forward with the current Board of Trustees in place.
Steven D. Brewer; Assistant Professor & Director
Biology Computer Resource Center