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On campus, protests arise

Students, faculty organize petition

As suspense mounts at Boston University over whether incoming president Dan Goldin will keep his job, some alumni and faculty are protesting what they describe as embarrassing chaos at the top levels of the university. Some fear that a decision tomorrow to fire Goldin could hinder faculty recruiting and discourage donors.

An online petition asking trustees to let Goldin take over as president this weekend as planned had attracted more than 1,400 unverified electronic signers by 7 p.m. yesterday, the first day it was available, according to the Faculty Committee for the Future of Boston University.

The group was organized by a handful of professors this week in response to the news that trustees were reconsidering Goldin's appointment.

"Our concern is, what will happen if Goldin's appointment is overturned by trustees? Essentially, we're left in a situation where no reputable person would consider taking the presidency," said Carol Neidle, a French professor and committee leader.

She said supporters, including alumni, faculty, students, and parents, posted other fears about the consequences of firing Goldin: that BU will be the "laughingstock" of the academic world; that it will be harder to recruit top academics amid lingering questions about trustees' judgment; and that some professors will leave for other universities.

More than 100 faculty members attended a private meeting on campus yesterday, and many expressed embarrassment and shock at the turn of events, according to Herbert Voigt, the chairman of the faculty council.

"There were a lot of stories about colleagues around the country calling to say, `What the hell is going on?' " he said.

Some alumni have threatened to withhold donations unless changes are made on the board, and some parents have registered complaints. But few were hopeful that their views will be considered by the board.

"Although I am sure that this letter will have no impact, and that no one on the board will seek to impose reforms, I write nevertheless, hoping against odds that one of you will decide to stand up and do the right thing," Jon Spampinato, a 1990 graduate, wrote to trustees.

"I will never give a cent to the university, and I will actively discourage my classmates from giving, until our Board of Trustees is replaced," wrote Spampinato.

He provided a copy of his letter to the Globe.

In a letter published yesterday in BU's student newspaper, 1999 graduate David Schonthal, the cochairman of the school's alumni association in Chicago, wrote that if Goldin's offer is rescinded by trustees, his "faith in the future of Boston University will be snuffed."

The board's 24-member executive committee held a vote of no confidence in Goldin last Friday, and scheduled a meeting of the full board tomorrow to vote on whether to rescind its job offer.

Faculty and students expressed frustration at the lack of information about the trustees' deliberations. One professor said some faculty members had hoped to demonstrate outside tomorrow's meeting, but the board has not disclosed its meeting location.

James Iffland, a Spanish professor who helped organize the petition, said he called the trustees' office yesterday to find out how to submit the signatures directly to the board before the meeting. As of last evening, he said, he's received no response.

Jenna Russell can be reached at

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