Page 2 of 2 -- "It's not because people were stupid," Silber says about BU. "Mr. Goldin has outstanding qualities. I had the highest regard for his intelligence and for his awareness of what needed to be done to make Boston University still better. I had no idea that he would be so fearful of any independent colleagues, that he would have an administrative massacre and replace outstanding people with simply people he knew and thought he could control."
Silber calls Goldin "almost as paranoid as LBJ" and adds, "He comes in and starts looking around and the next thing we know he's got himself a list of the people he's going to fire."
Some BU board members saw problems early in the game. Former John Hancock CEO David D'Alessandro resigned to avoid having to fire Goldin later. "I think he sized him up correctly," says Silber. "And there's no question I contributed to the mistake that was made."
Looming large was an anonymous telephone call Silber received about Goldin. The caller would not identify himself, so Silber dismissed it as he does all nameless communication. Silber will not divulge the substance of the conversation except to say this:
"I failed in my responsibility -- and there's no point in trying to cover that over -- by virtue of the fact that I didn't follow up on the anonymous call that I'd received. And the board should have interrogated Mr. Goldin explicitly on the issues that were raised -- not on the assumption they were true -- but just to find out are they true or are they not true? And what are the facts? And that would have changed things substantially and probably resulted in his not getting the offer."
So what happened at the fateful Oct. 16 board meeting? "He spoke to the board in the manner that reminded one of that climactic scene in the 'Caine Mutiny' where Queeg is rolling these ball bearings around in his hand -- click-clack, click-clack. This man just went on and on about what he had to have and what he had to do. He didn't want any interference from anybody. . . . And he pretty well had a list of who he was going to get rid of. He said, 'I'm going to leave the room now and you decide: Do you want my appointment or do you not want my appointment?'
"He left the room, and one of the trustees said, 'Does he report to us or do we report to him?' By this time, after that performance, the board should have turned him down. And I should have had sense enough to turn him down."
Silber later adds, "What people don't know is that Mr. Goldin had already planned his inauguration -- or should we say coronation -- which I would suspect would have cost at least $2 million. It was unbelievable."
It has been more than a year since this debacle rocked the academic world. Goldin is history. So, in another way, is Silber. And BU still is still looking for a president.
Sam Allis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.