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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Letter: President Bulger: An Exceptional Man


I was very disappointed and troubled to read the editorial in The Mass Media calling for President Bulger’s resignation. I know there is a media circus in town that consists mainly of attacking President Bulger’s integrity, but I would have thought that a newspaper published at an institution of higher learning would have higher standards than those displayed by the Globe and the Herald. Apparently not, as The Mass Media chose to follow along in lock step with the journalistic frenzy.

President Bulger is one of the finest individuals that I have ever met in my professional and personal life. He grew up in a local housing project and raised himself out of poverty through hard work and his accomplishments as a student. When he achieved the position of President of the Massachusetts State Senate he did not forget where he came from and worked tirelessly to improve the lot of the less fortunate. Dozens of state programs, from welfare assistance to housing subsidies to food programs for women and infants to keeping libraries open to health care for the uninsured, mainly exist because of his personal support. As President of the University of Massachusetts he has done much to acquire additional funding, to improve the quality of the institution and to enhance the reputation of the University within and outside the Commonwealth. All who work here, and study here, and eventually graduate from here have benefited from the hard work and unique skills of this exceptional man.

However, whether you agree or disagree with my opinion of President Bulger, it is inappropriate to call for his resignation because of recent events. I am very troubled by the editorial statement that he “wouldn’t have to worry about incriminating himself if he weren’t hiding a crime.” President Bulger has the right as any citizen to invoke parts of the Bill of Rights. Refusing to testify in an ambiguous situation where the innocent could be entrapped is clearly a legitimate use of the Fifth Amendment. In this time of increased militarism and growing conservatism in this country, we should not be quick to condemn someone merely because he has asserted a constitutional right.

So, what is going on here? Most of the unions in the University seem poised to take a vote of “no confidence” in President Bulger, because the state has not had the funding to pay for the collective bargaining contracts that had been signed in previous months. President Bulger is being singled out as a scapegoat in a very difficult situation. Does anyone doubt that the state budget is in a financial crisis, a crisis in the order of one to two billion dollars, due to unwise tax cuts, a slow-down in the economy, and the aftermath of the tragic events of 9/11? 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. However, I feel that under President Bulger’s leadership, we have the best chance of getting the greatest amount possible in state funding for these contracts. Competing for scarce state dollars is extremely difficult and we need the strongest leadership possible to have any hope of succeeding.

Rather than honestly face the financial situation we all find ourselves in, the union leadership has chosen to scapegoat President Bulger. This may give union members a sense of satisfaction, but it will not in any way fund their bargained-for pay increases. I submit that if President Bulger were to step down in response to their petitions, the loss of his leadership will result in less funding for the University and fewer raises in the future for our employees.

I know that much of the current irrationality and scapegoating arises out of the fear echoing from the events of 9/11, the rumors of war, and the suffering from a poor economy. I would hope that we would all take a calming breath and figure out a way to work together for the improvement of this campus and the true security of this country.

David J. MacKenzie

Vice Chancellor for Administration & Finance