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Goldin backing said to erode

Power struggle seen at BU

Incoming Boston University president Daniel S. Goldin told the school's board of trustees 10 days ago that he feared he lacked the support he needs to run the university, according to a trustee who attended the meeting where Goldin spoke.

"Dan Goldin got up and said he felt like he didn't have the support of the trustees," said the board member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "If he couldn't get that support [he said] he wasn't going to be very effective."

It appears that a majority of members of the board have come to feel that Goldin was the wrong choice, the trustee said.

Goldin, 63, is set to take office on Saturday, and he is expected to be paid more than $600,000 a year, according to BU officials.

Meanwhile, a source familiar with the trustees' concerns said yesterday that David D'Alessandro, chief executive of Hancock Financial Services Inc., resigned from the board at the end of July because of the selection of Goldin to lead the 30,000-student university. D'Alessandro, who was vice chairman of the board, cited concerns about time commitments, but gave little further explanation at the time. At the time of his resignation, D'Alessandro told other board members, "I don't want to have the job of firing Goldin," according to the source close to the trustees.

On Friday, the executive committee, a group of about 20 trustees with close oversight of university affairs, voted no confidence in Goldin. The executive committee scheduled the entire board to hold an emergency meeting next Friday to decide Goldin's fate.

Nancy Sterling, a spokeswoman for Boston University, confirmed the two meetings Friday but said she could not comment on the workings of the executive committee.

Goldin's relationship with the university's trustees has been deeply troubled since the day he was approved to run the school that has long been dominated by Chancellor John Silber, according to those with knowledge of the board's concerns.

Some board members felt Goldin was disrespectful toward Silber, and seemed bent on staking out an inordinate amount of power, according to sources close to the trustees. For example, Goldin told some trustees that he had asked a psychiatrist to analyze Silber, and the psychiatrist concluded that Silber was a "paranoid megalomaniac," according to two sources close to trustees.

"It's like the night before the wedding, you decide you don't want to get married to that person," the trustee said. "Are you better off going through with it because you made all the preparations, or are you better off saying, `Whoops, we made a mistake?' "

Goldin did not return calls yesterday.

Goldin came to BU's attention not through the official search but by a personal friend and new BU trustee, Gerald S.J. Cassidy, a Washington lobbyist and close ally of Silber. Silber was seen as a strong supporter of Goldin's candidacy.

Silber stayed behind Goldin even after Goldin's last interview with the search committee, in which he said he wouldn't be president if Silber was on the board of trustees, someone who was in the room said yesterday.

"Silber looked like he was hit by a truck," said the person who was in the room. But others have said that Silber had already agreed to step down and didn't seem surprised by Goldin's statement.

Silber did agree, and he stepped down as chancellor but decided to remain on the board, the source said. Goldin was angered that trustees told Silber he was welcome at executive committee meetings, said another source.

Silber could not be reached yesterday, and Sterling said he was in the hospital recovering from minor surgery. A controversial figure widely seen as having shaped the BU of today, Silber, 77, served as president from 1971 through 1996. He was succeeded by a handpicked choice, Jon Westling, but returned to running the university last year after Westling was pushed out by trustees.

Silber chose many current trustees and has a strong power base there. But the trustee who spoke yesterday said that Silber went out of his way to give Goldin a role in decisions about the board. Recently, several trustees were given one-year renewals instead of three-year renewals to allow Goldin a chance to shape the board, the trustee said.

The board was also trying to please Goldin as recently as its regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 15 and 16, according to the trustee. Trustees initially approved a bylaw that gave the board the power to appoint a chancellor. But they had already promised Goldin they wouldn't have a chancellor during his tenure, so they saw it as just a procedural move.

But Goldin was upset, and that's when he made his speech about lacking support. He left, and then trustees rescinded the bylaw they'd just approved as a good-faith measure. "We said, `Let's just show this as a sign of support' " to Goldin, the trustee said. "We didn't want it to be an albatross hanging around his neck."

Goldin had also told some trustees that he planned to replace many of Silber's appointees in powerful positions around the university, one source said.

A vote to rescind Goldin's offer of the presidency would take a majority of board members present, the trustee said, and no one could vote by proxy or phone.

Goldin has a contract with BU, and officials said earlier that he was expected to be paid at least $600,000 a year. One important question if he were removed would be how financial issues would be resolved. When William M. Bulger resigned as the president of the University of Massachusetts in August, trustees approved a severance package of nearly $1 million.

Speculation around BU was that if Goldin is indeed uninvited to the presidency, the position will probably go -- at least on an interim basis -- to one of the two internal candidates who were finalists for the job, provost Dennis Berkey and law school dean Ronald Cass.

But some faculty members yesterday said they were holding out hope that Goldin's presidency could still be saved. James Iffland, chairman of modern languages at BU, said he was trying to mobilize faculty to oppose a decision to cut ties with Goldin.

Iffland, a long-time Silber critic and former chair of the faculty council, said "Silber is simply incapable of turning over the reins.

"What is happening would be really unthinkable at any other institution," Iffland said. "If the full board of trustees backs this, it will be impossible to recruit a qualified person to do the job."

Marcella Bombardieri can be reached at

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