You’ve been admitted to Suffolk University, in the heart of beautiful downtown Boston. You’re going to love it here, should you choose to join the class of 2020. And we sure hope you do, since we need your tuition payments to keep us alive.
We have super courses in psychology, political science, marketing, and law, to name a few. There are three libraries and a campus in Madrid. And sparkling new buildings, all steps from the famous Frog Pond.
Please, choose us! And please, pay no mind to the grown-ups acting like vindictive children here on Tremont Street. They just run the place. Nothing to worry about.
Yes, the board of trustees tends to micromanage things, not-so-quietly undermining the president. But we’re sure that has nothing to do with the fact that Suffolk has had, oh, five presidents in five years. Don’t think of that as instability: Think of it more like Snapchat, but for college chiefs. Poof, there goes another one! Cool, right?
Our current president, Margaret McKenna, is on her way out, too, but don’t let that worry you. It seems that some of the trustees were quite upset that she removed their portraits from the walls in the law school, that she made a number of decisions (some allegedly poor) without their permission, and that she hadn’t raised millions in her first seven months in the job.
McKenna’s biggest crime appears to have been getting rid of George Regan — the public relations honcho who’s a far better ally than enemy, though even as an ally he’s not that great. Regan handled Suffolk’s PR for 27 years — even though the school has its own press office — and earned a lovely 20 grand a month plus expenses (Maybe he’ll hire you one day!). He’s also had a very heavy hand in what goes on at the school. One of his employees, Julie Kahn, is still on the board. Totally no problem, OK?
Instead of going quietly, Regan fought back, demeaning and disparaging his former client. Should you choose to study public relations here, your teachers will tell you that’s a major no-no. Actually, this whole mess is a wonderful case study in how not to do it. You’re welcome!
After weeks of appalling acrimony, both sides agreed that McKenna would depart by fall of 2017, and that board chairman Drew Meyer would step down this coming May. In the meantime, everybody was supposed to cooperate and make things hunky-dory for the university’s next leaders.
But no. Trustees circled the wagons, hiring their own PR firm to repair their bruised image (your tuition dollars at work). And last month, Regan sent a letter to McKenna demanding half a million in damages for his dismissal, throwing up all manner of professional and personal allegations against her. The trustees hired attorneys to look into his claims (more dollars working).
Oh, and here Regan is again this week in Commonwealth Magazine, pictured with his adorable dog, making the spurious claim that the board didn’t really want to hire McKenna, saying “that woman” — don’t worry, female freshmen, we’re so enlightened — “has no right being the leader.”
Now, we know some of you may still have concerns. Like: Is this really the kind of place you want to spend the next four years? Who in their right mind would want to be president of Suffolk after this? Who would join the board? Who would donate to an endowment?
Good questions, all. We don’t really have answers for you. But here’s what we do have: faculty, students, and alumni all mad as hell at what these supposed leaders are doing to Suffolk University. For a long time, our former commuter school has been trying to foster a stronger sense of identity. Well, in spite of themselves, the trustees and Regan have helped. Protesting students and faculty are calling for more accountability and demanding that the school focus on its mission of educating tomorrow’s leaders. Our college looks like a basket case right now, but what doesn’t kill Suffolk will only make it stronger.
Besides: The Frog Pond.
See you in September!
Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org