Board bust: Alumni demand improvement

Colleen Day

On the heels of an appearance in a standing room only Student Government Association meeting on Thursday where issues regarding the university’s plans to repair its broken internal governance with student interest in mind were discussed, Suffolk University’s Board of Trustees is under fire again.

In passing a joint resolution with outgoing President Margaret McKenna and Chairman Andrew Meyer in February, the Board was slated to adopt new bylaws, elect a new Board chair and form a committee to initiate a search process for a permanent president.

However, nearly two months later with no real deal in sight beyond sources saying news may break on Friday, students, alumni and faculty seem to be getting restless, fielding off brutal commentaries in the media disgracing the university amidst the ongoing, loud contempt from the terminated George Regan of Regan Communications.

McKenna and students fought back at a Thursday Boston Globe column, which staged a mock acceptance letter calling the university’s leaders “grown-ups acting like vindictive children” under a Board who “tends to micromanage things, not-so-quietly.” The harsh reality of the university’s inability to escape media mockery and timely execute what seemed to be the final motion to end a near year-long uphill battle elicited prominent sources familiar with the matter to speak up.

Junior sociology major Tiffany Martinez, a strong voice backing both McKenna and students, released a post that went viral in response to the commentary on Friday.

“For someone who did not go to Suffolk and doesn’t understand what it truly means to be a Suffolk community member, it is uncalled for you to tell our prospective students to look the other way,” Martinez wrote.

Echoing Martinez, McKenna said in a response letter to the Globe earlier this week, “I can think of no other campus today that has more engaged students, faculty, staff and alumni working together for the success for a university.”

In a letter to the Board of Trustees and Attorney General of Massachusetts Maura Healey on Tuesday, spokesperson Jared Cain for the Alumni for the Integrity of Suffolk University – an ad hoc group of over 1,000 alumni who stand for the stability and integrity of Suffolk University – addressed the Board regarding its latest decisions, primarily their lack of disclosure on recently- executed legal contracts.

“Regrettably, we are again disheartened to learn of [the Board’s] recent actions that indicate failure to comply with the aforementioned agreement,” said the letter.

Of the contracts the alumni group calls the Board up on is twofold: the recent hiring of a new public relations firm, Rasky-Baerlein, a deal the organization feels is alarming after Regan Communications was ousted for its alleged inside ability to influence the university.

“There is nothing that leads us to believe that this action is anything short of self-dealing – a serious matter of conflict of interest,” said the letter, immediately listing the second hiring of high-priced attorneys to fend off what the alumni group says are “legal threats of a disgruntled vendor who failed in performing his duties for the University.”

Said Cain in the letter, “In regards to your recently executed legal contracts, we understand that significant financial resources have been procured and that, like your public relations contract, no disclosure has been made in terms of cost, scope of work, and intended purposes insofar as their benefit to the University’s institutional good.”

Recalling the February agreement, the alumni group listed their demands, ranging from a full disclosure to the public of all contracts executed in the last three months to offering the looming new bylaws for a 10-day review by alumni, faculty, staff and students in efforts to hopefully build a more united Board where power is designated and not obtained.

Whether the Board meets to form and possibly release new bylaws on Friday is hearsay and will be clear later this week. However, as per the alumni group and several members of the community, they remain steadfast on achieving new resolutions to bring back credibility to a damaged university.

“We yearn for a day where we can trust, support and hold esteem for an institutional body that truly embraces, at its core, the stability and integrity that this group seeks for Suffolk University.”