More than 150 students at New England Law Boston appear to have signed a petition demanding the school’s board of trustees reverse its decision to appoint Scott Brown dean and president.
The letter excoriating Brown’s political stances, endorsement of President Trump, and service in his administration had 165 signatures as of Monday afternoon, according to its primary author, three days after the school announced the former US senator and current US ambassador to New Zealand would lead the 725-student law school.
“Ambassador Brown cannot serve as the Dean of New England Law Boston when his political and moral beliefs are so repugnant to those of the student body and the legal institution itself,” the petition said.
The school is standing by its pick. Brown is set to take the reins in 13 months.
Jennifer Kelly, a spokeswoman for New England Law, said the school conducted a thorough national search, considered more than 100 candidates, then narrowed the field down to three.
“The finalists were interviewed by the faculty and department heads in an open forum and their feedback was considered by the board before its vote,” she said.
Kelly added that in recent days, students, faculty, and alumni have shared their excitement about the choice of Brown.
“We value the feedback of all students, positive and negative, and plan to provide a community forum at some point to discuss their views,” she said. “We look forward to Ambassador Brown leading New England Law towards an exciting future.”
Kelly said that although many names signed on to the petition looked familiar to her, the school’s registrar wasn’t able to confirm each name on Monday, a federal and school holiday.
In an e-mail, the ambassador referred to what he told the Globe in a telephone interview last week.
At that time, Brown said that, as a Republican taking the helm of a school in the heart of Boston, he hopes that his new community at New England Law would give him a fair shot when he starts more than a year from now.
“I’ll certainly meet with every employee, every faculty member,” he said, adding that he will work to figure out “What’s the vision? What do we need to succeed? How can we get to consensus?”
The law school was founded in 1908 for the education of women, went co-ed 30 years later, and took on its current name in 2008.
Students involved in the petition lauded its diversity and inclusivity. The letter offered a laundry list of criticisms of Brown’s record, from his opposition to gay marriage as a state senator to his support of a 2005 bill that would have mandated that women seeking abortions be provided with color photographs or realistic drawings of “the unborn child at two-week gestational increments from fertilization to full term.”
Brown has long said he supports abortion rights and was a key vote in the US Senate on allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military.
Dylan Lang, the student who started the anti-Brown push, said he felt compelled to act after the board of trustees’ decision.
Given Brown’s record and “his support of the Trump administration, which disregards the rule of law and basic human rights, I just don’t think he belongs in our community,” Lang said in a telephone interview.
Lang, who is interning at a Democratic state senator’s office on Beacon Hill and is set to get his law degree in May, acknowledged that some of the statements and positions the letter cites came during Brown’s long tenure as a politician, and that people can change.
But he said Brown’s support for Trump and continued service in the Trump administration show the ambassador’s true colors.
Some members of the New England Law community, however, feel like the ambassador is a good pick to lead the institution.
“His political views as a ‘Reagan Conservative’ make him perfect for an administrator position, as he represents both sides of the political spectrum,” said student Michael Maher Haddad, in a quote provided by the New England Law spokeswoman and confirmed by Haddad. “I do not think Brown will make New England Law a less diverse, less inclusive place.”
“I think we ended up with a candidate with incredible leadership qualities, enthusiasm, a great listener,” said Lisa R. Freudenheim, a professor at the school who was on the search committee.
A longtime Massachusetts state representative and state senator, Brown won an upset victory for US Senate over Democrat Martha Coakley in 2010, but lost his 2012 reelection bid to Elizabeth Warren.
He worked for law firm Nixon Peabody LLP for several months as he made frequent visits to New Hampshire.
Eventually, Brown and his wife, former WCVB-TV broadcaster Gail Huff, moved to their vacation home in Rye, N.H., and Brown ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2014 against incumbent US Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
In 2016, he endorsed Trump just before New Hampshire presidential primary.
After Trump won the presidency, Brown, who had served in the National Guard for 35 years, pitched himself as a good candidate for secretary of veterans affairs.
He didn’t get the gig, but was offered an ambassadorship. The Senate confirmed him in 2017 as US ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa. The vote was 94 to 4, with both Shaheen and Warren voting to confirm him.
Brown’s appointment as dean elicited supportive statements last week from Massachusetts’ top two Republicans, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.
And, late Friday, a top Democrat also offered support.
“Welcome back to Massachusetts, Ambassador @SenScottBrown and Gail!” Warren tweeted Friday, linking to a story about his appointment. “I know it will be good for New England Law Boston to have a dynamic leader.”
Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.