The Day UMass Lost William Bulger

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2013 at 11:17 pm


In Boston, the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger is underway, as widely reported in the news.  One such story was published about a week ago by Asma Khalid at WBUR.  This article contains one glaring inaccuracy which is so often misstated that justice demands a proper recounting of the facts.  Specifically, this article illustrates how James “Whitey” Bulger is the older brother of William Bulger — the former President of the University of Massachusetts (UMass) and the longest-serving State Senate President in the history of the Commonwealth.  Why is this important?

Well, for those who remember and especially for those who do not, there was quite a stir ten years ago when William Bulger was subpoenaed to Washington, DC to testify before the House Committee on Government Reform about the whereabouts of his brother.  He clearly and unequivocally stated, “I do not know where he has been over the past eight years, I have not aided James Bulger in any way while he has been a fugitive…”

Yet this reporter, Asma Khalid, goes on to declare, “But that wasn’t an adequate defense: Bill Bulger lost his job as president of the University of Massachusetts.”  Yet this is wrong.

After he testified before the Committee, William Bulger attempted to return to his duties as President of the University of Massachusetts, but then-serving Governor Mitt Romney instructed the UMass Board of Trustees to fire William Bulger from his position as President, because the Board holds oversight jurisdiction over UMass.  In reply, the Board consulted legal counsel and concluded, “In fact the evidence is that the quality of our students, our fund-raising, and research funding have all increased dramatically in recent years…It is the consensus of the board, although not unanimous, that President Bulger has the authority to lead this institution going forward.”  In response, Governor Romney — clearly displeased that the Board of Trustees had refused to do his bidding — subsequently “…said he will begin replacing board members, one by one, until his appointees have a majority – not until 2006.”

Indeed, because Governor Romney chose to establish his higher education policy platform on the issue of whether or not William Bulger should be UMass President, William Bulger chose to resign for the good of the University of Massachusetts on August 6, 2003.  In his resignation speech, President Bulger expressly referenced Governor Romney’s actions, noting how “…the attacks on dedicated public citizens who serve on our Board are being revealed for what they are. And every effort will be made to assure that trustees will remain independent and will be devoted to the betterment of the University of Massachusetts — and to no one or nothing else.”

He pointed out that the Board members had a duty not to serve Governor Romney, but instead to advance the interests of the University.  He continued, “These assaults — politically motivated to be sure — come at a time when the University of Massachusetts, like many public universities across the nation, is struggling to cope with the effects of painful budget cuts.”

Finally, President Bulger expressly declared that he had made a difficult yet noble choice for the betterment of the University: “Although we have met the challenges and are up to the task of meeting more, I increasingly believe that the University and its Board of Trustees should not be subjected to further assault.  I hope that the step I take today will be helpful in our effort to provide a measure of protection for the University.”

Subsequently, even President Bulger’s decision did not save those UMass Trustees who would not kowtow to Romney, as they were eventually replaced by new appointees as of September 2006.

So now going back to Khalid’s article on WBUR, how exactly did Bulger somehow “lose” his position as UMass President?  Asma Khalid writes that he had not proffered “…an adequate defense.  Bill Bulger lost his job as president of the University of Massachusetts.”

That simply is not true.  To the contrary, Bill Bulger’s selfless act was a loss for the University of Massachusetts.


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