Search Committee Drops Motley’s ‘R’

Interim Chancellor J. Keith Motley

Interim Chancellor J. Keith Motley

Gintautas Dumcius

A small debate over inclusion of a fourth ‘R’ punctuated an otherwise uneventful second meeting of the chancellor search committee earlier last week.

At last September’s convocation, acting Chancellor Keith Motley, widely considered to be a candidate for the permanent position, added his own ‘R’ to ex-Chancellor Jo Ann Gora’s three original ‘Rs'(retention, research, and reputation), which were part of her strategic plan for the university. Gora left in August for the presidency at Ball State University.

“My ‘R’ is going to be ‘renewal’,” he said in his convocation address to the faculty and staff.

The chancellor search committee, while refining a draft of the case statement that will be sent out to prospective candidates, debated including Motley’s ‘R’, deciding instead to move it to another section of the statement.

The 14-page draft, written by Associate Provost and search committee member Winston Langley, stated in the “Background and Context” section, “[UMass Boston] has achieved that status and aspires to extend that lead, as it prepares its students for the twenty-first century, through four themes that now define its developing strategic plan: renewal, retention, research, and reputation.”

Langley defended ‘renewal’ against claims by some search committee members that it was too vague. Langley said it represented building one community and revitalization, themes from Motley’s convocation.

Kristine Alster, assistant professor and former dean of the College of Nursing, said the fourth ‘R’ was not considered to be as institutionalized among faculty as the other three, and deemed a “talking point” from the convocation speech.

Denise Patmon, a Curriculum and Instruction professor, acknowledged a “need for community building,” suggested placing it under “Opportunities and Challenges” instead. Having it at the level of the other three ‘Rs’ is “where the rub is,” she said.

Shelly Storbeck, a search consultant from the firm A.T. Kearney contracted to help the search committee, stressed the need for continuity between what was on the university website about the three ‘Rs’ and the case statement.

Search committee members recommended other small changes to the case statement.

Africana Studies Professor Robert Johnson said he wanted to expand alumni listed beyond executives and chief executive officers of companies. Johnson advocated for mixing and matching more people, such as professors and community leaders. Pat Flaherty, UMass Boston Alumni Association president, lobbied for a mention of athletics, and nearly all search committee members agreed the case statement needed photos of the visually appealing harbor campus.

Storbeck, a veteran of over 300 public and private education searches, including the University of Michigan, chalked up the debates as business as usual, saying sometimes it takes nearly 20 tries at the document to get it right.

The search committee recently held forums on campus and in the city to hear the community pitch what it wants in a new chancellor. Search committee chair and UMass trustee Stacey Rainey, who said over 200 people participated over two days, added she was “energized” to see the commitment to the campus.

Storbeck said she felt she came away with a “fairly good feeling” of the campus, which included agreement over the 3 R’s, and the overall direction of the university. There was a very strong commitment to the urban mission, she said, but its definition went in “interesting directions.” Storbeck also noted strong feelings among some about stabilizing enrollments, which have been shaky in years past. Joining the search committee are Natalie Crawford-Smith of SEIU Local 888, representing UMass Boston staff, and Heriberto Flores, the executive director of the New England Farm Workers Council, of Springfield. Flores, a current trustee of Holyoke Community College and former UMass trustee whose term expired in 2001, is representing labor, but was unable to make it to last week’s meeting.

The appointments come after some segments of the campus and UMass Trustee Robert McCarthy, head of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, complained of lack of representation of classified staff and unions.

Other members are moving on up as well. Gina McCarthy, a search committee member and deputy secretary for Operations at the Massachusetts Governor’s Office for Commonwealth Development, was recently appointed by Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. McCarthy has agreed to continue to serve on the search committee, as she takes on her new duties in the next state over on December 10. At Connecticut’s DEP, she replaces Arthur Rocque Jr., who, according to news reports, retired last October under a federal corruption investigation. The search committee plans to have another meeting in December to discuss candidates and recruiting strategies, and interview 8 to 12 candidates early next year. Candidates will visit the campus sometime in March or April, with a finalist to be picked and approved in May by UMass President Jack Wilson and the UMass Board of Trustees.