MacKenzie A Candidate for Interim

Gin Dumcius

One of UMass Boston’s top administrators is on the short list of candidates to serve as an interim president to the university system.

David MacKenzie, UMass Boston’s vice chancellor of administration and finance, is one of the few people the UMass Board of Trustees is looking at to hold down the university system for a year, as they look for a more permanent replacement for President William M. Bulger, who in the middle of August agreed to step down.

MacKenzie said he was “flattered” that he was being considered, but didn’t know much beyond news reports.

Formerly a staff director for the state Senate’s Ways and Means committee, MacKenzie was appointed by Bulger to the post of vice chancellor at UMass Boston in August 1999, and later filled in as interim chancellor after Chancellor Sherry Penney resigned and before current Chancellor Jo Ann Gora was picked.

“He has the ideal background to manage UMass Boston during the transition and to prepare the university for a new chancellor,” Bulger said at the time.

His appointment led to articles in The Boston Globe, where some complained that Bulger was stocking the campuses with his allies who have little academic experience. In a press release from 1999, MacKenzie said, “From the Ways and Means Committee I think I have a pretty good perspective on how the University relates to the wider state budget, where it fits in that context, and what it has to do to get its share of the pie, to grow and get support from the central state government.”

During the battle over Bulger’s job, as many newspaper editorial pages called for his resignation and campus unions were debating whether to hold a vote of no confidence, MacKenzie wrote in The Mass Media’s letters pages, “President Bulger is one of the finest individuals that I have ever met in my professional and personal life,” and that it was “inappropriate to call for his resignation because of recent events.” He also chided the unions, whose collective bargaining payment increases had been vetoed by then-Governor Jane Swift, for scapegoating Bulger. “In the University’s most recent budget request, President Bulger has asked for the full funding of the contracts, an amount worth $118 million. Given the state budget crisis and the huge cost of the contracts, I doubt if anyone, even the union leadership, thinks the money will be forthcoming, and, given the financial situation of the state, that such wage adjustments are reasonable.”

Earlier in the academic year, MacKenzie had gotten into a flap with unions. When a union representative asked him what he planned to do about the state pulling back on the contracts, MacKenzie stated that the veto made it easier for him, a comment that surprised even Chancellor Gora. “I can see why they wouldn’t like what I said, but I was just being honest, it made it easier to balance my budget. I didn’t have to come up with another seven million dollars… I hope they fund the whole thing and not just part of it,” he told The Mass Media.

Recently, MacKenzie has been a visible face in the administration, speaking at town meeting-style forums on the budget cuts currently afflicting UMass, and co-chairing the Committee on University Revenues and Expenditures (CURE), whose mission was to find ways to raise revenue and cut costs on campus.

According to press reports, MacKenzie is on the list with several other candidates, including UMass Vice President for Academic Affairs Jack Wilson and UMass Vice President for Management and Fiscal Affairs Stephen Lenhardt.

Chancellor Gora could not be reached for comment on MacKenzie’s possible new job. According to The Boston Globe, she herself holds no interest in the position, instead wanting to focus on her plans for the harbor campus.

The Board of Trustees is expected to pick an interim president Thursday, August 28.