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Job shuffle, streamlining at UMass

Overhaul aims to lift standing in state, US

The University of Massachusetts plans to realign its top management to more thoroughly knit the five campuses into a single, more efficient system and promote the kind of scientific collaboration and commercialization the state hopes can drive the economy in the future, the university said yesterday.

Under the plan, expected to be unveiled tomorrow , UMass president Jack M. Wilson will take a greater role in running the system's flagship Amherst campus while continuing to serve as the president of the entire system. UMass-Boston chancellor Michael Collins will move to the medical school in Worcester, where he will oversee research and commercial development throughout the system. Collins also will serve as the medical school's interim chancellor, succeeding Aaron Lazare, who stepped down in March because of a heart arrhythmia.

J. Keith Motley, the system's vice president for business, marketing, and public affairs who lost out to Collins two years ago for the chancellorship of the Boston campus, will replace Collins, making him the first black chancellor of the Boston campus. Amherst chancellor John Lombardi will retire at the end of next year and after a sabbatical will return to Amherst as a professor.

Wilson said the plan is designed to further his "one university" strategy and promote UMass's standing among other top public university systems around the country. The realignment could encounter resistance from some of the campuses, which have grown accustomed to their autonomy, according to several executives briefed on the plan.

"We're organizing ourselves for success at a time when we are being asked to do more by the state," Wilson said in an interview.

Even though UMass is moving toward a more unified management structure, Amherst would remain the lead campus in the system both in size and prestige. But under the reorganization, Amherst's immense resources could be shared more easily with the other campuses, such as with Lowell in nano technology development.

UMass has slowly been moving to a more centralized operation, consolidating such operations as payroll, human resources, and online education programs among the Amherst, Boston, Lowell, Dartmouth, and medical school campuses. Wilson said he envisions a system in which students could fill out a single application for the four undergraduate campuses, while checking off which campuses they prefer. He also said he would push for moving all private fund-raising to the president's office so campuses are not competing for money among the same donors.

Many aspects of the plan are still under development, Wilson said, and the new management structure will be tried for a year to see if it works. During that time, a task force will explore how much authority the system's president should have over individual campuses. One scenario would have Wilson serve permanently as both president and top leader of the Amherst campus. Other state universities have presidents who also oversee a system's flagship.

"We're not jumping off a cliff here," said Stephen Tocco, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees. "The board will be watching this very closely and looking to see whether it's an effective model."

Wilson, who makes about $450,000 in salary, housing allowance, and other benefits, would receive no additional money for the extra duties he will take on in Amherst. Along with getting a feel for running the Amherst campus, Wilson will study ways for the Amherst campus to play a more vital role in the economic development of western Massachusetts, particularly the Springfield area.

Wilson's larger role in Amherst is raising concerns among faculty and staff on the other campuses about money and other resources going to Amherst to the detriment of their campuses.

"The University of Massachusetts system is so Amherst-centered already. Is this going to make it worse?" said Michael Herbert, director of the Student Educational Research & Advocacy Center at UMass-Boston.

The top priority of the new management plan, however, would be coordinating research and scientific endeavors among the five campuses, said Wilson, a physicist. Together, the five UMass campuses rank third among universities in Massachusetts on research spending and generated $28.7 million in technology licensing revenue in fiscal year 2005, second only to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to UMass.

Highlighting the system's research spending, raising the caliber of the students entering the system, and improving the aging infrastructure would also be part of Wilson's efforts to boost UMass's national standing.

Collins, a physician who previously headed the Boston-based Catholic hospital network Caritas Christi Health Care System, will oversee such matters as stem cell research, a growing area for the university and the state's economy. Last week, Governor Deval Patrick announced a $1 billion proposal for life sciences research, which includes $66 million for stem cell research at Amherst and Worcester along with $38 million for a center in Worcester that would find therapeutic uses for a new biology tool that can shut off the functions of individual genes inside a cell.

Collins, who starts his duties on June 1, will receive about $500,000 for a salary, housing allowance, and other benefits. That is nearly twice his current compensation of $265,000 but considerably less than the $1.7 million he made as the Caritas chief executive.

Motley, who earns $206,000 as a vice president, would make about $265,000 as chancellor, returning to the campus he led as interim chancellor before Collins's hiring. Motley was enormously popular there, and students and faculty protested when he was passed over for the top job.

Steve Bailey can be reached at bailey@globe.com; James Vaznis at jvaznis@globe.com.

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