Opinion

Editorial

Time for Decisive Action at WSU

A few weeks ago, we wrote that Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle didn’t have to leave that position for the school to put the controversy surrounding Dobelle’s lavish spending habits and misuse of credit cards behind it.
Well, a lot can happen in a few weeks. And in this case, enough has happened to compel us to say that Dobelle does have to go if this fine institution is going to move on from this mess.
Since we last commented on Dobelle’s expensive and seemingly ineffective junkets to Asia, Europe, and elsewhere, state education officials and the inspector general’s office have come down hard on both Dobelle and the school’s board, indicating that the former clearly acted inappropriately in many cases and that the later essentially waited way too long to do anything about it.
Meanwhile, we’ve also learned that Dobelle has made no less than 15 trips to San Fransisco (supposedly on business) since 2008, and that, during one of them, when he was allegedly making proposals to prominent foundations, he was actually sitting in the car while another university employee was dropping off packets of information on WSU at those foundations.
We’ve also learned that Dobelle might make use of the so-called whistleblower defense as he works to keep his job — he’s told the press that he self-reported the mistakes made with university credit cards and therefore cannot be retaliated against — and that the high-priced public relations firm he’s hired to make his case is telling the press that the controversy stems from an ongoing effort on behalf of board of trustees President John Flynn (the top civilian administrator for the Massachusetts State Police) to turn the school into a diploma mill for state troopers.
This has become the theater of the absurd, and it’s time for the trustees to bring down the curtain on the Dobelle administration.
They’ll have to do it, because Dobelle has no intention of stepping down. He told the local press as much when they asked that question, responding, ‘gosh, no. Why would I?’ or words to that effect.
We’ll answer that question for him.
He should step down because it’s becoming increasingly clear that he can no longer effectively lead this institution. People look at him, and instead of seeing the ‘change agent’ he claims to be, they see an administrator who has irresponsibly spent taxpayer and Westfield State Foundation money, and without any real benefit to the school. In fact, Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland has stated that, despite Dobelle’s excessive wining and dining of potential contributors, WSU has finished dead last or next to last among the state colleges in fund-raising each year during Dobelle’s tenure. And those schools’ presidents spent a fraction of the money he did.
Meanwhile, the controversy is giving the school a serious black eye in the press, with headlines that are making responsible business people and college administrators shake their heads and have left legislators on Beacon Hill wondering what’s happened to the money they’ve appropriated for the institution.
This controversy is dragging down the university, and it’s time for the trustees to act quickly and decisively to remove Dobelle. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be cheap, but it needs to be done.
It’s time for Dobelle to be a change agent somewhere else.

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