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Mass. Higher Educ. Commissioner Speaks on WSU Board Decision to Hire Dobelle

Richard Freeland

Richard Freeland

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — In recent weeks, newly retired Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle has come under scrutiny for inappropriately spending school funds.

It left questions surrounding the Board of Trustees who hired him for the position. They were well aware of similar issues Dobelle had when he headed up the University of Hawaii.

The state’s Higher Education Commissioner, Richard Freeland, is the next step above the board.

“I was not here when that process was going forward, so I don’t feel capable to speak on the diligence that was done and the time. Clearly, there was a history there. The board, at the time, probably had a number of different players than are there now. A judgment was made to proceed, and on some level, I can understand that,” he said.

Dobelle retired last week, but not before faculty took a no confidence vote, the Board of Trustees met, and Dobelle filed a lawsuit.

“The trustees are on the right path. I think they have had a very difficult situation to deal with. They have come together as a board, they clearly want to do what’s best for the university, but I think they’re moving in the right direction,” added Freeland.

In the midst of it all, Freeland decided to halt the $2 million that was going to the university, for a new science center.  “We tried to make it clear from the get go that this is a suspension of funding, not a revocation of funding. We thought it was time for the campus to move forward,” he stated.

On Wednesday Freeland announced they would be restoring the money for the new science center.

The move shows that the state has more confidence in the school, now that leadership is in new hands.


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