Suffolk Students Concerned University Looks Unstable

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Suffolk University students, who say they plan later this week to take a vote of no confidence in the school's Board of Trustees chairman, Andrew Meyer, are concerned the turnover in the university's leadership makes the school appear unstable.

This comes after news that the board is expected to vote Friday whether to fire the university's embattled president, Margaret McKenna.

Margaret McKenna (Courtesy Suffolk University)
Margaret McKenna (Courtesy Suffolk University)

Meyer met with student leaders who support McKenna. Three Suffolk students met for two hours with Meyer and trustee Julie Kahn and the board's finance chairman, Bill Hogan.

Colin Loiselle, president of Suffolk's Student Government Association, said the students left "very concerned about the stability of the leadership at Suffolk University."

"It makes students worry what that does to the value of their degree," Loiselle said in a telephone conversation after the meeting. "Suffolk is a pretty big institution. We have a pretty good name for ourselves, but all this turnover and the way that the board handled this in the press really brings some concerns to students."

"We have a pretty good name for ourselves, but all this turnover and the way that the board handled this in the press really brings some concerns to students."

Colin Loiselle, student government president

None of the three trustees in the meeting responded to requests for comment. None of the other 21 trustees we contacted responded either, except for two who said they would not comment.

Last weekend, trustees criticized McKenna for making what they say are unauthorized expenditures and having what they call an "abrasive" manner.

McKenna is the fourth president, counting two interim presidents, that Suffolk has had in four years.

Loiselle said students worry that alumni won't donate to an institution that seems unstable.

"We go through presidents way too frequently here," Loiselle said. "It's all happened under the leadership of Andrew Meyer. We think that the only variable that hasn't changed is the leadership of the board of trustees. The presidents have all changed. They've all come and gone."

Loiselle said the defense of McKenna has brought students together for a cause on a campus with no cohesion. Its buildings are tucked into the fabric of Downtown Crossing and Beacon Hill. With 9,000 students, Suffolk is the fifth-largest university in the city of Boston, behind Boston University, Northeastern University, Boston College and the University of Massachusetts.

Most students said they don't know enough about the confrontation between McKenna and the board to have an opinion.

But senior Maysa Abbas, of Watertown, believes the board leaked the story that it was going to fire her.

"I think it was just pretty childish to go behind her back and not confront her about it in the beginning," Abbas said.

The story broke last week, when what The Boston Globe calls "a person close to the university" said McKenna had been told that the board has enough votes to fire her.

"It's pretty shady just going behind her back and trying to kick her out," said senior Matteus DeMelo, from Jamaica Plain. "I think it's very unprofessional to do that."

"That's not the way you handle something," said junior Jane Fitzgerald, of Lenox. "If you have an issue, you go to someone and talk to them about it. That's what parents teach their children."

Alumni want to meet with trustees as well. A group of them has asked for a meeting before the board votes on firing McKenna on Friday. The alumni want the trustees to bring in a third party to mediate between McKenna and the trustees.

This segment aired on February 2, 2016.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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