The “Andy Card controversy” on the UMass Amherst campus has suddenly been displaced by system President Jack Wilson’s announcement of several high-level personnel shifts and a “trial run” of a plan to have Wilson supervise the Amherst campus as well as the five-campus system. Amherst Chancellor John Lombardi will remain in office for another year but would appear to have a greatly diminished role.
Wilson’s decision was apparently taken without knowledge of many trustees (one has resigned), local legislators, or campus officials. Beyond the obvious concerns about process, it is not at all clear what to make of it as policy. The Governor is about to announce his higher-ed reorganization, which I hear will have a single board for community colleges and a single board for state colleges, parallel to the UMass board. How does this move fit into that?
There are other states where the leader of the flagship campus is also the leader of a statewide system, but as far as I know they are either like PA, where the satellite campuses are clearly subordinate to the main campus, or NC, where the campuses are generally independent and the “system” is of little importance. UMass Amherst would welcome the latter kind of system, but Wilson’s rhetoric is all about centralization and coordination. It’s somewhat amusing that the move is seen at Amherst as a threat of interference and drawing off of resources to the central system, and at the other campuses as a threat by Amherst to use the system’s resources for itself.