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The Boston Globe today has 2 front page stories on the spending scandal at Westfield State University involving President Evan Dobelle.  It is amazing this story has dragged on as long as it has.  Westfield’s Board of Trustees should have fired Dobelle weeks ago when it identified continued inappropriate personal expenditures that he claimed were university related.  The board’s seeming reluctance to fire Dobelle is a case study in crisis management failure.  In the meantime, the board’s lack of action has tarnished the reputation of this fine university.  Stories have already begun to surface of large donors pulling back on scheduled donations.  How long before the faculty and students start becoming active in demanding Dobelle’s resignation.

In reality the board should have never hired Dobelle in the first place.  After all, this is the same man who was fired as President of the University of Hawaii back in 2004 for – you guessed it – inappropriate expenditures.

How is it that Westfield’s board has remained idle in the face of this scandal?  Their background and titles suggest a competent group of mostly successful business leaders.  The likely answer?  By all accounts, Dobelle is an engaging individual – and he likely used his personality to create a loyal following among members of the board.  In like so many similar circumstances where a board fails to take appropriate action against the corporation’s management, the board’s loyalty for Dobelle has likely created a reluctance to take the necessary steps they know are right.

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education is bringing Dobelle and members of the board before it today.  There is no answer to this growing scandal other than to get rid of Dobelle and the entire board.  This is an issue of credibility and this is a true failure in corporate governance.  The stories are not going to go away – and will likely only get worse. Westfield State University deserves better than Dobelle and its board.

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3 Comments
  • Dave Tate

    September 21, 2013 at 11:53 pm Reply

    Hello Mark. I’m on the west coast (California). I haven’t seen anything about this. I hope you do a follow-up on the further developments. The board actions would be interesting – perhaps they cannot reach agreement on the next course of action – perhaps they haven’t had a vote – perhaps they have had a vote and more want Mr. Dobelle to stay than those that want him terminated. Another interesting thought, as this issue involves some manner of a public-related entity, perhaps more of the process should be made public. Dave Tate

  • Eric

    September 26, 2013 at 1:09 pm Reply

    I attended Westfield when it was Westfield State and he had just become the President of the school. After hearing the horror stories of the previous presidents which I won’t highlight some of their actions. This was the first one who actually took a lot of time to meet with students directly and quickly make changes to improve the school overall in favor of the students. Also look at any business out there and tell me that people aren’t mis spending on expense accounts and so forth. The difference is he just got caught if this is all factual.

  • Dan

    September 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm Reply

    Hello there. I also attended WSU and graduated in May of 2009. I can honestly say the differences that Evan Dobelle made on that campus were astounding. My first three years of school there, it was almost embarrassing how inedible the dining common food was as well as the overall appearance of the campus. It was clear when students would attend campus tours/visits, that the majority of them were a little bit surprised at how old and run down everything was and not to mention, how the differentiation of the campus and the rest of the town on Western Avenue was extremely unapparent, until of course, Evan Dobelle opted to put in WSU pillars at the entrance of school property. When the president was first hired, I remember hearing all about his U-Hawaii scandals. The fact of the matter is that Westfield State new what they were getting themselves into in hiring Dobelle and new that if they were going to remain one of the prominent state universities in MA, they needed a serious overhaul, a competitive advantage amongst other state schools, and a president that wasn’t scared to allocate funds to make this happen. Evan put in the Western ave pillars, he put in “the owls nest”, which may have a different name now but was a very old tradition for many of the former “WSC” graduates, and began making the campus a place that people actually wanted to stay on over the weekends and not go home because they were scared a glorified “WSC” parking ticket attendant was going to give them a 5-5-50 (5 weekends off campus, 5 hours of community service, and a $50 fine) for responsibly enjoying a cold one with their friends, another ridiculous rule that to my understanding, Evan has done away with. The school my first three years there in comparison to my last was the equivalent of night and day. So what if the president has some
    “inappropriate” expenditures? The fact of the matter is that the president cares about the image of the school and the quality of life there for it’s attending students. If you gave Evan $0 today and he gave you back $0 tomorrow, would you be happy with him? Maybe, maybe not. However, if you gave Evan $100 today and he gave you back $1000 tomorrow, how would you feel? You’d be ecstatic! You wouldn’t care how he yielded you a 1000% return on your money nor would you care if he spent some of that money to fly somewhere, network, and build a relationship that indirectly contributed to your profit.To summarize, if the school is more profitable than it ever has been and Evan is in fact triggering financial growth as well as increased student satisfaction, why are we giving him such a hard time? He’s a great president. Let him run with the ball and make things happen.

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