Editorial: Kennedy right to resign from state Board of Regents
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 21:10
Robert A. Kennedy, the president of the state Board of Regents for Higher Education, resigned last week under pressure from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the state legislature and almost any state resident who cares about the quality of higher education in Connecticut. That includes us here at the Daily Campus, who support his leave after he single-handedly approved raises for 21 employees totaling $262,206 without the legally required approval from the rest of the board.
The board was created in 2011 as a budget saving measure, consolidating the leadership systems of the state’s four Connecticut State University campuses (Western in Danbury, Eastern in Willimantic, Southern in New Haven and Central in New Britain), the state’s 12 community colleges, plus the online Charter Oak College. UConn is the only component of public higher education excluded from the consolidation. Kennedy, the former president of University of Maine, was hired on a five-year contract to lead the new system, which collectively includes around 100,000 students.
The true problems began when the Connecticut Mirror first disclosed the illegal raises approved by Kennedy and not shared with the other board members – not even the second-in-command, Executive Vice President Michael P. Meotti. Meotti himself resigned a few hours after Kennedy. The problems only compounded when the Hartford Courant disclosed that Kennedy was paid in full for nine weeks this past summer, but he left Connecticut completely and lived in his Minnesota summer home. Kennedy’s annual salary is $340,000.
Leaving the state for a weekend of vacation is sometimes necessary to rest and recharge. But to disappear for over two months on full pay – when you have been in the job for less than a year and your job is so important to so many people – is irresponsible. As for the part about the single-handedly approved raises, that is beyond irresponsible: it is illegal.
Taking over Kennedy’s position as an interim replacement during this time of controversy is none other than UConn’s own former president, Philip Austin. We support this hire of the man who led the university for 11 years from 1996 to 2007, the longest stretch a person stayed in the position since Albert Jorgensen stepped down in 1962. He seems to handle the whole “interim” thing quite well: in the last two years alone, he served as interim UConn president for a year in 2010-11 after Michael Hogan left for University of Illinois and served as interim head of the UConn Health Center earlier this year for a few months. Clearly, he is committed to higher education in Connecticut. And we doubt he will bail out in the summers to a second home in Minnesota.