Motley’s Goal Remains Chancellorship or Presidency

Gintautas Dumcius

The question of whether Interim Chancellor J. Keith Motley will be a candidate for the permanent position is on many peoples’ minds on campus, weeks before a search for the next leader of UMass Boston is even set to begin.

Motley, in numerous interviews past and present, has made no secret of the fact that one day he hopes to be the chancellor or president of a university.

“I’ve always wanted to be a chancellor or a president,” he said, sitting down for his first Mass Media interview since assuming the role of interim chancellor in July. “My goal is to be a chancellor or a president. I know I that will be one somewhere. I hope it’s here, at UMass Boston. But if it isn’t here, then maybe I’ll have do it somewhere else. But my goal has always been that.”

But Motley says he believes that people in his role should be nominated by the campus, through doing their job well.

“My goal is to do my job well, and if folk believe that I should be their next chancellor, then they’ll nominate me for that, and I’ll go through that process,” he said. “If they don’t believe I should be it, I’ll know that, and it’ll be a chance for me to come back to the community in a way that makes the most sense.”

Motley says he did not come to the university to be a chancellor. “I came here to support a chancellor who was here and to build a Student Affairs community, and now I have the opportunity to do all of that, so it’s an overwhelmingly wonderful time for me, personally and professionally,” he said, “Because all the values I have around urban education, all the values I have around this urban mission, the things that drove me to this institution, that made me want to be in this environment, have come to fruition in a way that I never dreamed they would.”

Motley replaces Chancellor Jo Ann Gora, now president of Ball State University in Indiana. UMass President Jack Wilson announced the appointment at a press conference, which turned emotional for Motley. Motley said for him it was emotional due to it being an opportunity “to have a culminating experience about what I believe in. I believe in the unlimited potential of students who come from these backgrounds and from these communities,” he said. “It allows me to be emotional because I sit here as a first person of color, who happens to be in a leadership position to lead this institution, so I’m thinking about all the shoulders I’m standing on, the kind of people that have come before me who maybe should have been in this role or never had the opportunity. So I don’t take those things for granted.”

Nor does he take for granted the conventional wisdom on-campus that is currently in his favor, with many people thinking that the permanent job is already his for the taking. “I don’t take anything for granted,” he added. “All I do is work hard every day to lead this institution, to give 100%…”

As the search for the new chancellor slowly gets underway, Motley said he is focused on doing his current job well. “The first thing that I need to do is I need to concentrate on being chancellor right now in the role that I’m sort of focused in, which is to open up this university, which is to focus on what I’ve got planned for the next nine months, which is building one community, trying to get all of us to see that this is UMass Boston, and that we all work for the common good of UMass Boston, that it should be ‘UMB before you or me,'” he said. “I shouldn’t be out in front of this university. This university should be out in front of me. And as a result of that, we all benefit. As individuals we benefit, as an institution. I’ll be focusing on building that one community.”

Another particular point of focus will be the critical evaluation of New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC), when it sends a team, headed by Cleveland State University’s President Michael Schwartz, to assess UMass Boston in April 2005.

“That accreditation is the most valuable thing we can have as an institution beside our students right now. It’s an opportunity for us to do what we do better,” said Motley. “It’s our excuse to do some planning and implementation that will lead to a better future for this university.”

The funding of union contracts remains a priority for him. “I need to be working to make sure that Local 888 is resolved first,” he said. “I’d rather you put that first on my list.”

The unions, angry over three years without raises, plan to remind students and returning staff and faculty of their plight by rallying and protesting. But with a search committee expected to be assembled soon, and the university effectively put in a holding pattern for the next nine months, the chancellor search remains in the back of many minds, as campus community members ready for the year ahead.

Motley relayed what he has told President Wilson and others. “Yes, I want to be a chancellor somewhere, but I’m not here politician-ing for some job, I’m doing what I do,” he said. “This is what I do. This is what I’ve done wherever I’ve been.”