In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
College presidents come and go, too. Some, as in the case of Liberal Arts College USA, blessedly sooner rather than later. As the door slams on his retreating derriere, let us pause to contemplate the achievements of his short-lived tenure. It’ll be but a brief pause, given that his meager accomplishments are easily summarized as 1) rooting out and eliminating all staff guilty of AWF—Administering While Female—2) larding the payroll with hangers-on, friends of friends, and parasitic common-law spouses of ill-advised trophy hires and 3) bloating the organizational chart with ever-more grandiose titles for exceptionally ordinary functionaries. But at least the talented new president has no need to sweep away any half-baked plans or initiatives as she takes on the daunting task of rebuilding LCA, her predecessor having thoughtfully left the planning tabula utterly, totally, completely rasa.
Sometimes, though, college presidents depart before they even arrive. Take, for example, the rollicking saga of one Philip Conroy, the man who until yesterday aspired to the top job at Quincy College in Quincy, Massachusetts. QC is a public two-year institution; this is important for you to keep in mind. Back in June, QC’s board of governors, in a tight 6-5 vote, recommended that Mr. Conroy be offered the college’s presidency. Mr. Conroy, a vice president at an independent two-year college in the Commonwealth eagerly accepted. The appointment seemed to make a lot of sense. After all, Mr. Conroy is a native son of Quincy, and he has administrative experience in both public and private higher education, including at the university level, which gives him an important dual perspective on transfer issues of students seeking to continue their educations after community college enrollment.
Yesterday, however, the Patriot-Ledger printed an excerpt from a letter Mr. Conroy had just written to the board: “’It has become increasingly clear to me that the board of governors is unable to unite behind a new president,’” Conroy’s letter reads. ‘(W)hile the offer of the position was extended there has been no movement toward a contract. Therefore, it is with a profound sense of sadness and disappointment that I respectfully decline the offer to serve as president of Quincy College.’” One might quibble about whether “decline” is the right verb, given that what the board offered Mr. Conroy included apparently nothing in return for the services he was willing to render.
The board members were too busy fighting amongst themselves to devise a contract for the hapless Mr. Conroy. The close vote that brought him to the brink of the presidency he was ultimately denied bespeaks the kind of high-stakes intrigue public institutions in Massachusetts are so famous for. It seems Mr. Conroy’s closest competition for the position was Peter Tsaffaras, Esq., Director of Employee Relations and Benefit Administration for the Massachusetts Board of Education, and former member of the Quincy College Board of Governors. Cozy, no? The summer months in Quincy sizzled from heat generated by the procedural maneuvers, scheduling chicanery, and character assassination that emanated from the board.
As one who has watch similar dramas unfold, I can say with great assurance that there are few fights as nasty, no tactics so dirty as those the bottom feeders feasting at the public chum in the Massachusetts pond politic employ when attempting to move themselves or their cronies up the food chain. It makes those who engage in the superfluous nepotism of certain private institutions look like the bush league players they are.
Mr. Conroy will remain the vice president of the college that currently employs him. I don’t know the man, but I wish him well, and would advise him and any other potential candidates for the presidency of Quincy College to stay far away until the board’s feeding frenzy is over and the ragged claws of the governors are busy scuttling across the floors of silent seas to the more hospitable waters of the Turnpike Authority.