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Faculty may call for BU shakeup

Goldin debacle spurs a meeting

Boston University trustees, hoping to move past last week's debacle that saw them spend $1.8 million to buy out president-elect Daniel S. Goldin's contract before he even started work, plan to meet today with BU faculty leaders in an effort to put the Goldin controversy behind them and chart a future course for the school.

One BU faculty member said yesterday that the faculty leaders, frustrated and embarrassed by the latest controversy, are considering asking the trustees at the meeting to remove several BU board members who were responsible for selecting Goldin as president-elect in the first place.

The faculty source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the BU board should replace trustees Earle Cooley and Melvin Miller -- the chairman and vice chairman of the search committee that screened Goldin and other presidential candidates -- as well as trustee Gerald S.J. Cassidy, a Goldin supporter who championed his candidacy on the board.

"For the BU trustees to put this mess behind them, the trustees most responsible for the mess have to leave the board," the faculty source said.

Faculty leaders have been of two minds about the Goldin controversy. Many were longtime critics of Cooley, Miller, and recently retired chancellor John Silber, the three men who had the most control on the search panel. Yet faculty leaders accepted the committee's choice of Goldin, hoping that his recent promises about reforming the board and sidelining Silber would also break with the past. While the faculty leaders largely stood by Goldin, they also say that the board leaders should be held accountable for the debacle.

The faculty leaders plan to bring up this request if they are given a chance to discuss reforms at the meeting today. Board of Trustees vice chairman Dexter Dodge and a few other trustees will attend the meeting; Dodge has in effect been leading the BU board through the Goldin controversy because the current board chairman, Christopher Barreca, has been ill recently.

Goldin, the former chief of NASA, accepted the buyout Thursday night in exchange for the presidency he had been scheduled to assume Saturday. Since the board's executive committee revoked the job offer to Goldin, the trustees have already appointed an interim president and set in motion a plan to review the board's governance practices.

In addition to the meeting with faculty leaders, Dodge, a Silber loyalist, pledged last week that an ad hoc committee on university governance would be formed within two weeks, with himself as chairman and fellow trustee Alan Leventhal as a member. "It was Dexter's idea to have this meeting," said Nancy Sterling, a spokeswoman for the Board of Trustees. "Dexter wanted to reach out to the faculty and begin a constructive dialogue. One of the great strengths of this university is the impressive faculty that has been built up over the last couple of decades."

Since the situation with Goldin developed, trustees, particularly board members with close ties to Silber, have weathered steady criticism from several quarters.

Former state attorney general Scott Harshbarger and several Boston University professors, for example, last week called on the attorney general's office to investigate the trustees and $30 million in business and charitable deals that benefited trustees' companies and other interests.

The deals, the critics charged, amounted to conflicts of interest that may violate a 1993 agreement between BU and the state. The transactions had also emerged as a source of tension this fall between BU trustees and Goldin, with Goldin indicating that he would examine those and other items of board business as possible conflicts of interest.

The agreement was signed after an investigation by Harshbarger's office suggested that a handful of powerful BU trustees, along with Silber, had excessive control over deal-making and governance at the university. Silber's resignation as a trustee was accepted at Friday's emergency meeting of the board, meaning that he has no official role in the university's power structure for the first time since 1971. The board named him president emeritus in October.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, however, declined to comment about whether Reilly's office would launch a probe of the BU trustees.

Meanwhile, the president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities predicted that the handling of Goldin's bid for the BU presidency may dissuade other candidates from applying for the post.

"This [BU] is a radioactive institution," association president David L. Warren told the Associated Press. "It has done the unprecedented and it's going to be extraordinarily difficult to find able candidates to come forward."

Daniel S. Goldin Daniel S. Goldin
Aram Chobanian Aram Chobanian (Courtesy BU)
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