The turning of tables

Power shift outs McKenna, Meyer and Regan Communications


By Katie Cusick

Colleen Day

With the veil dropped baring the bitter divide between Suffolk University’s Board of Trustees and President Margaret McKenna, news broke late Tuesday evening reporting the university has cut ties with Regan Communications after several calls for an in-depth look into its highly controversial institutional involvement.

In an interview on Tuesday with the Journal, the Student Government Association celebrated what they saw as a victory and a culmination of student, faculty and alumni efforts to rid the university of the public relations firm’s hand in its affairs.

“One of our primary concerns was the conflict of interest, and to see that President McKenna has come in and eliminated that conflict of interest is great,” said SGA President Colin Loiselle.

“Getting rid of Regan Communications was the first step to reforming the Board of Trustees, and I’m extremely excited to see that step has been taken, and it shows a clear interest in bringing accountability back to the Board,” he said.

Coming off a historic display of unrest, the Suffolk community’s active participation in the university turnover and administrative changes have been ongoing since the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe exposed tension in Suffolk’s high offices earlier this month.

Student-activists took to the freezing streets in a blinding snowstorm on Friday in what became a final play of a week-long flagrant protest to offset the threatening termination of the university’s first female president.

In the standing-room only lobby of 73 Tremont with McKenna’s office 13 floors above, students and faculty funneled in, seeking any sign of the results of a 2 p.m. showdown meeting slated

to resolve the clumsy, public whistleblowing from the Board of Trustees and the fate of the seven-month term president.

“Silence is consent,” said junior Tiffany Martinez to the assembled crowd, one of the most prominent student voices throughout the entire movement backing McKenna.

Impassioned students clad with handmade picket signs and beating plastic drums echoed, “We are Suffolk,” as McKenna emerged from the elevators across from the same entry she will soon depart, marking yet another turn in a revolving door of presidents at the university over the course of the last five years.

Despite McKenna’s acknowledgement of the efforts of students, faculty, alumni and staff that she said “made all the difference,” mere hours after the rally in a joint statement released by McKenna and the hotly criticized Board of Trustees Chairman Andrew Meyer, announced a resolution that will soon permanently remove both him and McKenna from the university.

Chairman Meyer will be ousted from the Board in May, and McKenna will leave the helm no later than the beginning of the 2017 academic year.

“Following the election of a new Board chair and the adoption of new bylaws, a search committee will be formed to initiate a search process for a new, permanent president,” said the statement.

On Friday in what appeared to be a testimony of her silenced thoughts while held under the Board of Trustees’s issuance of a mandatory cease and desist during its several-day deliberations, McKenna’s unexpected heartfelt thank you to the crowd potentially served as a sort of preparation to her supporters on the pending news.

Hugging Martinez, who chaired the “We are Suffolk” campaign to keep McKenna in office, McKenna emotionally addressed the crowd.

“First, let me say thank you. I am so moved by your support not just of me, but of this [university]. It is such an important place and you have showed that every day this past week,” said McKenna.

“I am so warmed by the fact that you guys still exist. And you can gather and you can organize, and I am amazed that this has happened in such a short period of time, and folks from students to alumni and faculty and staff. It has just been heartwarming to watch you and take it all in,” she said.

The agreement settled with students as a win-loss-loss outcome in light of SGA’s vote of no confidence on Meyer with 30 in favor on Thursday, likely a factor in his imminent departure, according to Loiselle.

Subsequently, an inability to accept the resolution’s terms marking McKenna’s departure sparked aggression on social media, calling for a student veto and vows to continue battling using internationally-viral hashtag, #SUStandsWithMcKenna.

“Let me be clear, this isn’t a solution. I am seriously disappointed and can assure you this isn’t over. The only winners here are the Board of Trustees,” tweeted Loiselle, tailing emotional statements from students online vowing that, “This fight is far from over!” and “This is not the answer we want or deserve!”

Now, in response to Tuesday’s dismissal of Regan Communications and the clear changes brought to the Board, in an interview with the Journal, Loiselle triumphed.

“I think that it shows that there are meaningful reforms taking place in the Board of Trustees. I’m optimistic that we’ll see more positive changes,” he said.

Vice President Sean Walsh agreed, only regretting that McKenna’s fate as president has already been determined.

“Students basically got all that we asked for, except Margaret McKenna being able to stay beyond the next academic year,” said Walsh.

Despite a dominantly positive campaign highlighting McKenna’s contributions to student life, the controversial aspects of McKenna’s financial maneuvers, program slashes and review of the university’s relationship with the public relations firm are still playing out aggressively in the public eye.

In an interview with the Boston Globe on Tuesday evening, the public relations firm’s head, George Regan, bashed McKenna as students rejoiced the discontinuing of the firm’s involvement with a Board bleeding from within.

“President McKenna has chosen to blame me for her contentious relationship with the board, rather than acknowledging her own indefensible actions as the true reason for the board’s deep and valid concerns for her ability to lead the university,” said Regan to the Boston Globe, claiming the Board had enough votes to terminate McKenna on Friday but opted to grant her proposal to step down instead.

Attacking McKenna’s leadership style and decisions from closed-door meetings, junior entrepreneur major, United States Marine and founder of start-up company Straw Straws, Alex Bennett, views the soon-to-be-former president’s leadership style as reactive and not proactive, suggesting the Board’s claims are not isolated to heated meetings in Boston high-rises.

“I have read what President McKenna writes about transparent leadership, and I am not sure I can take it seriously until it is put into action,” he said to the Journal. “I want to know why these leaders consistently put politics before students,” said Bennett.

In a statement to students via Facebook on Monday, however, Loiselle encouraged students to broaden their perspective on the whole ordeal.

Said Loiselle, “Until we got involved, President McKenna was going to be fired at the end of last week,” acknowledging how their involvement “bought President McKenna at least another year and a half.”

“Before we got involved, the Board of Trustees had never agreed to meet with SGA,” he said. “Now that we got involved, now that we stood our ground, they’ve agreed to make critical changes to their governance structure,” he said.

The Alumni for the Integrity of Suffolk University has issued multiple statements speaking out against the university’s reputation and the public unraveling of serious administrative issues. Praising the community’s involvement, in a statement on Friday they said, “We held meetings, we held rallies, we kept in touch, and we made differences. It’s clear that we are one campus. One community. One voice. We are Suffolk.”

In terms of McKenna, the outgoing president expressed during Friday’s rally that the agreement she proposed to the Board will ultimately be a step forward for the university. “I think it will, as an arrangement, totally, do a lot things that have been talked about for a long time here in terms of things that are important to all of us,” she said.

Sharing sentiments of hope to students, she said, “You care so much about [the university’s] present and its future, and I am grateful, and the people that come after you will be grateful to you.”

In regards to that future in light of Tuesday’s breaking news, Loiselle vows to remain optimistic that McKenna will remain in office past 2017.

“I think honestly anything is possible. It’s not something I would rule out,” he said.