Meehan: New search committee to seek permanent UMass Boston chancellor

Katherine Newman: Interim Chancellor at UMass Boston since June 2018

(This article was updated on Thurs., May 23)— In a letter issued on Tuesday, UMass President Martin Meehan told the UMass Boston community that a new search committee will form to seek a permanent chancellor for the Dorchester campus. The campus is presently led by interim Chancellor Katherine Newman, who took the position last summer when an earlier search effort failed amid push-back from members of the UMass Boston faculty.

"Under the leadership of Interim Chancellor Newman and thanks to the dedication and commitment of each of you, the university has made noteworthy progress in student recruitment, student success innovation, fundraising, and, importantly, budget transparency and financial stability," Meehan wrote in the letter. "Given that progress, and in consultation with the chair of the Board of Trustees and members of the campus community, including the faculty council, I am pleased to announce the reopening of a search for a chancellor."

It is not immediately clear whether Newman, 65, will be a candidate for the permanent position.

In a statement to the Reporter on May 22, Newman said: “These are complicated and challenging times for higher education. Now more than ever, colleges and universities need permanent, stable leadership. The hard-working students, accomplished faculty and dedicated staff of UMass Boston deserve nothing less. The decision by President Meehan and the board of trustees to launch a search for a permanent chancellor of UMass Boston insures that the campus will have a strong advocate, which is absolutely what it needs.

“ It is the role of the search committee to identify and recommend the best candidate to lead UMass Boston forward. For both the search and the permanent chancellor to be successful, they must have the confidence of the campus community. To ensure that the search process has the independence, integrity and credibility that it requires, I will respect the right and the duty of the search committee to identify the candidates it believes will best serve UMass Boston.”

In an interview with the Reporter last summer, Newman indicated that she was interested in a long tenure at the Dorchester campus.

“For as long as it takes, as long as people are enthusiastic about what I’m doing there, I’m in. I don’t have a time limit.”

Meehan wrote on Tuesday that nominations for a new search committee would begin this week.

“It’s an exciting time at UMass Boston, with new residence halls now online, new philanthropic commitments, and the incredible opportunity made available by the development of the Bayside property,” Meehan added. “That growth and opportunity is undergirded by passionate faculty and staff, a campus community dedicated to UMass Boston’s mission, and a business and civic community committed to the success of Boston’s public research university.”

“We look forward to a successful search process resulting in the appointment of a chancellor who will lead the campus through what is certain to be a transformative period in UMass Boston’s history,” said Meehan.

If Newman does decide to seek the post, she can count a key member of Dorchester's political delegation among one of her supporters.

State Rep. Dan Hunt told the Reporter on Wednesday that he thinks Neman is "doing a good job,"

"We don't always agree, but the University needs stability and she is fully engaged. I don't think the time is right to do another expensive executive search," said Hunt.

A controversial search for a permanent chancellor ended awkwardly in 2018 after the UMass Boston Faculty Council took a no-confidence vote on President Meehan and a group of faculty called for a new search, publicly calling all three finalists unqualified. The candidates withdrew and the search was halted with university leadership lambasting faculty members for weighing in against the candidates. I

In the immediate aftermath, Meehan appointed Newman as interim chancellor to replace the outgoing interim leader, Barry Mills.

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