read more: Boston Herald

[password]Let’s play connect the dots:

A few weeks ago, The Boston Globe reported that a committee charged with selecting the next president of the University of Massachusetts system had narrowed its search to several top contenders, including UMass-Lowell Chancellor (and former Congressman) Marty Meehan.

Almost immediately, Deval Patrick summoned UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Rob Manning and Search Committee Chairman Jim Karam to the governor’s office to discuss the search process.

Shortly thereafter, Meehan withdrew his name from consideration.

At the most recent Trustees meeting Wednesday, Manning abruptly resigned from the board.

Although Patrick denies opposing Meehan’s candidacy, and Manning was characteristically gracious in announcing his resignation, you don’t have to be an insider to see that Patrick’s meddling just cost UMass some of its finest talent.

To be clear, I am no partisan of these gentlemen – Manning and I have had our share of disagreements on the board and, although I live in Meehan’s old congressional district, I never supported him politically. Nevertheless, I will miss Manning’s steady leadership of the board. And, having witnessed first-hand Meehan’s stewardship of the Lowell campus and his passion for UMass, I am confident in saying that his selection as president would have been an out-of-the ballpark home run for the university.

So why did Patrick push Meehan away? According to press reports, the governor feared the appearance of political patronage. (Meehan and the governor are, of course, both Democrats, although in 2006 Meehan backed Tom Reilly <;searchSite=recent> , Patrick’s Democratic primary rival.)

Ironically, by rejecting the search committee’s early favorite, Patrick has made the committee look like a sham – a group assembled to lend legitimacy to the process while he back-channels his own hand-picked candidate.

But then, Patrick has long micromanaged UMass – beginning with his insistence in 2007 that the governor’s education secretary become a permanent voting member of the Board of Trustees and that the governor be given the power to appoint the board’s chairman (previously elected from within).

Since consolidating his power on the board, Patrick has sought to use the university as tool for advancing his own political, economic and social agenda – pushing the university to acquire a failing and unaccredited law school headed by a major campaign contributor and relying on the university to help lower the unemployment rate and improve K-12 education.

To be sure, over the past few decades, UMass has become an engine of economic growth in the state. And, as one of the original land-grant universities, UMass has a long history of community engagement. But rather than simply celebrate these attributes of our state university, the governor has attempted to co-opt these strengths for his own purposes.

Sadly, ivy-educated Patrick views UMass not as an affordable option for top students but as a destination for unprepared students from failing schools. And he has proven, time and time again, his willingness to sacrifice academic excellence and rigor for the delusion of ever-expanding “access.”

Given Patrick’s history of micromanaging UMass to advance his own agenda, is it really any surprise that the governor now seeks to cherry-pick a university president he can control?

We need a UMass president who will ask not what he or she can do for the governor, but what the governor can do for the university. Unfortunately, the one person who might have been willing to put the university’s interests before the interests of politicians just withdrew from consideration.[/password]

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