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An odd way to end McKenna’s odd tenure

Students rallied outside of Suffolk University in February in support of their president, Margaret McKenna.
Students rallied outside of Suffolk University in February in support of their president, Margaret McKenna. JOHN TLUMACKI/BOSTON GLOBE STAFF PHOTO/Globe Staff

Well, excuse us. Meeting with the Boston Globe’s editorial board was apparently a no-no for Suffolk University President Margaret McKenna, who was abruptly fired on Thursday by trustees who cited her February meeting with the Globe as among the reasons for her dismissal. McKenna’s meeting with editors, columnists, and reporters came just after she and the trustees had brokered a resolution to a previous dispute.

The board’s rationale seems awfully thin-skinned — Suffolk’s internal disputes are not now and were not then some big secret — but so be it. After surviving a previous attempt to oust her from Suffolk’s presidency, McKenna’s firing appears to be final this time. While McKenna says she is going to mediation in an effort to overturn her dismissal, the trustees have the final say.

It’s an odd way to end McKenna’s odd tenure, but shouldn’t overshadow her accomplishments at Suffolk.
She managed to foster greater transparency and modern governance at the Beacon Hill institution, engage the
student body, and break Suffolk’s unholy attachment to local PR man George Regan. She did more than her part to make Suffolk a stronger university with a 21st-century administration.


And this week’s surprise decision notwithstanding, the Suffolk board has also made progress since the flare-up of controversy this winter, by adopting the modern bylaws demanded by accreditors in 2014 and adding new members. It conducted an investigation into allegations of financial impropriety that Regan lodged against McKenna and dismissed them, findings likely to further erode Regan’s standing in the Suffolk community.

On the other hand, there’s no denying that the firing leaves Suffolk with renewed instability and may make it even harder to interest the best candidates for McKenna’s replacement. To attract the best candidates, the board should conduct an open search with plenty of input from students and faculty, and keep Regan and his minions on the sidelines.

McKenna was already scheduled to retire at the end of the next school year. No matter how aggrieved the trustees may have been about McKenna’s meeting with the Globe and other communications, they would have been better off gritting their teeth for another year in exchange for some much-needed stability at Suffolk. But now that the board has fired her, it owns the consequences, and must ensure that the university gets the fully empowered, long-term leader that an institution so important to Boston’s future needs.