Babson College is on the defensive over its selection of former Lt. Governor Kerry Healey as its next president after students, faculty, staff, and some alumni raised objections to her qualifications and the process that led to the pick.
The chairman of Babson’s board of trustees held two meetings Friday – one with students, the other with faculty and staff, and delivered a five-page rebuttal to questions over the choice. Healey herself said that she has met with hundreds of Babson community members including students, faculty, staff, and trustees to answer questions and gain their trust.
“I haven’t been able to touch everyone yet, there are still outstanding questions I need to answer,” she said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I plan to answer every question and sit down with every constituency.”
Healey, 52, was named President-elect of the college in late March, making her the first woman to lead Babson. She is to succeed Leonard Schlesinger, who announced in December that he would step down from the private, business oriented school that has some 2,000 undergraduates and 1,300 graduate students. She will assume the duties July 1.
A presidential search committee conducted the process, and more than 170 candidates were considered for the opening. But on campus and online, students and faculty complain that the search process was hasty and incomplete, and they question whether Healey has the higher education and entrepreneurial experience to lead Babson.
Babson student Chelsea Haraty, 20, said she does not want to offend Healey, but she is concerned that the school has decided to select a former politician. Haraty said that students have expressed discontent with her politics, such as her opposition to gay marriage while in office.
“It will be interesting to see how things change with someone who is a woman and a public figure,” said Haraty, who is from Palmer. “I’m open to change, but I think there is going to be some controversy.”
In a question and answer document, members of the Faculty Senate wrote that “college morale—faculty, staff, students, alums—is deeply affected, with the high potential for long-term damage. How can we address this?”
Separately, a petition on Change.org calling on the Babson board of trustees to “take action in regard to the community’s opinions,” has generated more than 150 signatures.
Danté Love, a Babson alumnus who graduated in 2008, criticized the administration for rushing the selection process. Love said he wants Babson to reopen the search, and take community suggestions seriously.
“[Babson] made a highly questionable decision and they are unwilling to reconsider alternatives,” said Love, who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Michael Chmura, a spokesman for the college, said in an e-mailed statement that Babson’s chair of the board of trustees, Joseph L. Winn, met with faculty and staff last week to discuss the transition, and fielded questions from students in a separate meeting that lasted for approximately two hours.
“ . . .we expect the conversation will continue and evolve among faculty, staff, students, and alumni - all who care deeply about Babson. We are confident the community will move forward to make this a successful transition,” Chmura said in a statement.
In a written response to questions about the selection, the trustees said they are committed to helping the Babson community understand how the selection process was conducted, and why “we believe Dr. Healey is the right President for Babson at this pivotal time in our College’s life.”
Healey served as lieutenant governor from 2003 to 2007 and was the GOP’s National Committeewoman. A Harvard graduate, she holds a Ph. D. from Trinity College in Dublin.
Universities and colleges often select politicians to lead their institutions, such as former U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan, who leads University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Healey said she is no longer involved in partisan politics. She resigned from the Republican National Committee and has stopped advocating for candidates.
She said Tuesday that she has been an entrepreneurial leader in the political and non-profit sectors.
“Babson embraces all kinds of entrepreneurship, including social entrepreneurship and people who are entrepreneurs in their approach to government, as well as those who work in the private sector,” she said.
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