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Boston University names associate provost as interim president

Boston University's Center for Computing & Data Sciences on Commonwealth Avenue, seen from across the Charles River. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Boston University's Center for Computing & Data Sciences on Commonwealth Avenue, seen from across the Charles River. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Boston University has named a new interim leader.

After longtime president Bob Brown steps down on July 31, the school’s associate provost, Dean Kenneth Freeman, will take over until a permanent successor is named.

The university’s nearly 9,000 full-time faculty and staff make it one of the state’s largest employers. But Freeman has a history of running large and complicated organizations.

Freeman came to BU in 2010 to run its school of business after a career in corporate leadership, including a partner role in a private-equity firm and as CEO of Quest Diagnostics.

Since then, Freeman advised outgoing president Bob Brown on pandemic policy and helped shape the school’s online offerings, which came to be known as BU Virtual.

Asked about his plans as interim president, Freeman told WBUR it’s too early, saying his “first focus is working on an orderly and smooth leadership transition with President Brown between now and Aug. 1.”

But in an interview with BU Today, Freeman said he intends to be an active leader and a “value creator” for the university.

Not everyone was enthused about the appointment of a former business leader to the temporary post.

Mary Battenfeld, a professor of American studies, told WBUR that she was disappointed, but not surprised.

“He’s not an academic — the vast bulk of his 40-plus years of experience is in the corporate world,” Battenfeld said.

Given what she called the university’s “reputation as anti-union and pro-corporate,” Battenfeld said, the choice of Freeman struck her as “a backwards way of walking into the future.”

Battenfeld said she and several colleagues are seeking leadership who seeks a “cooperative and empathetic” relationship with faculty and students, and more sensitive to matters of racial equity than past presidents have been.

Editor's Note: Boston University owns WBUR's broadcast license, and Freeman serves on the station’s 27-member board of directors. WBUR is editorially independent.

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Max Larkin Reporter, Education
Max Larkin was an education reporter for WBUR.

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