Fire Dobelle, and Westfield’s Board
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.