Thursday, 4:30 PM
UMass Amherst faculty votes no confidence in system president, trustees
By James Vaznis, Globe Staff
Faculty and librarians at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst this afternoon cast a near-unanimous 214-1 no confidence vote in the board of trustees and system President Jack Wilson.
The faculty is outraged by a proposed overhaul of the school's leadership that calls for their chancellor to retire in a year. They initially planned only to include the trustees in a "lack of confidence" vote, but added Wilson to the motion.
The trustees are under fire for not consulting the faculty on the leadership changes and for holding a secret meeting to discuss the proposal at a dinner at the UMass Club in Boston on May 3. Eleven voting members of the trustees – two more than the minimum number for a quorum – were present at the dinner, where they heard a presentation from Wilson and Chairman Stephen P. Tocco.
The motion under consideration by the faculty calls for Governor Deval Patrick to appoint a commission to investigate the actions of the board of trustees.
Brian O’Connor, the Amherst faculty senate delegate to the board of trustees, said he believes the "lack of confidence" vote was unprecedented. O’Connor is a biology professor who has been at Amherst for about 40 years.
"People are upset about the abrupt loss of Chancellor (John) Lombardi who has been a tremendous champion for this campus," O'Connor said. "He's one of the best chancellors I’ve worked with."
Under the new leadership plan, Wilson would spend half his time on the Amherst campus working with Lombardi. The two will gauge whether the UMass presidency and Amherst chancellorship could be combined into one job. The Amherst faculty sees the plan as an attempt to force out Lombardi, who would retire next year and then return as a professor.
Wilson said the plan has Lombardi’s support. He said he explained to the Amherst faculty last week that if the jobs are consolidated, he would step down as president and return to teaching.
Robert Connolly, a university spokesman, said a task force will study the overhaul and will seek faculty input. Connolly denied that trustees violated the state’s open meeting law by discussing the plan at the dinner because no votes were taken.
"Jack Wilson's main message when he speaks to faculty later today is he’s committed to shared governance and collaborative decision-making," Connolly said.
In addition to the Amherst changes, the plan calls for UMass Boston Chancellor Michael Collins to become interim chancellor of the medical school as well as a systemwide vice president overseeing research and commercial development. J. Keith Motley, a system vice president for business and marketing, would become the new Boston chancellor.
Trustees will vote on those two appointments next month, although Amherst faculty plans to ask the board to hold off.