Sources: Malloy taps former UMaine president for higher education post

Robert A. Kennedy, who recently stepped down as president of the University of Maine, is to be named today as the president of the Board of Regents for the newly merged Connecticut State University and community college system, sources say.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is to introduce Kennedy, 64, now president emeritus at UMaine, as his choice to lead the new system at a press conference at 3:30 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building. He would be president on an interim basis until next year.

In Maine, one of Kennedy’s priorities was establishing closer ties between the university and its curriculum with the state’s businesses and their needs for a 21st-century workforce — a goal of Malloy’s in Connecticut.

After stepping down in June after six years as president, Kennedy told the Bangor Daily News he was not ready to retire.

Over the next few years, the paper reported, he might expand his work in “developing ways the private sector and public universities can work together for economic development.

Kennedy was to return to UMaine after a fall sabbatical to begin work on a new systemwide curriculum on alternative education, incorporating offerings at a UMaine satellite campus, a community college, and the law school.

“There is no reason that work being done at one institution should be replicated by another. We’ve been doing that far too long. With today’s technology, we can partner across state resources to build a strong curriculum,” he told the Bangor paper.

Kennedy has held positions at the University of Iowa, Washington State University, Ohio State University, the University of Maryland and Texas A & M University.

He was a vice president and associate provost at Texas A & M prior to going to Maine in 2000 as vice president and provost.

Kennedy was criticized during his tenure for sacrificing some programs in the humanities, including foreign-language majors, as he coped with budget cuts.

“Thus outgoing President Kennedy may add to his ‘accomplishments’ that he has brought Maine the ‘distinction’ of now being the only flagship of a state university system in the whole country without a Latin or classics major,” wrote Jay Bregman, a history professor, in an opinion piece the Bangor Daily News.

At the very least, Kennedy is expected to face educators skeptical about the merger. College system officials were adamantly opposed to the merger during a public hearing.

Malloy has the power to name a bare majority of the new board: 8 of 15.

So far, Malloy has named six of the 15 board members, and no date has been set yet for their first meeting. Longtime Higher Education Commissioner Michael Meotti had been the interim president.

The new Board of Regents will be responsible for governing the new 100,000-student system, which includes the Connecticut State University System, the dozen community colleges and the online Charter Oak State College.

A major policy question facing the new board is whether the community colleges will continue to accept all applicants, as well the larger issue of how to meet Malloy’s goal of fulfilling workforce demands.

The reorganization was Malloy’s idea to end high administrative costs and to make it easier for students to transfer among the institutions. It also followed a tumultuous year for top officials at CSUS, after it was disclosed they gave themselves double-digit raises and dismissed a college president without the full boards approval and would be paying her her full salary and an interim president for a year.

“We need to get a lot of the bureaucracy out of the way and to flatten the management of these systems,” Malloy said in February when announcing the proposal.

The Malloy Administration promised that the merger would save $4.5 million a year million by eliminating 24 of the 200 central office employees, a luring promise to hesitant legislators.

Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford and co-chairwoman of the higher Education Committee, welcomed the appointment.

“It seems like he would be a really good choice,” she said. “We need a seasoned administrator in higher education.”