The Board of Regents for Higher Education, the governing board of the state’s largest public college system, is planning for the departure of its embattled president, Gregory W. Gray. It is unclear if the board intends to force his departure.
Gray has announced no plans to exit the college system that includes 12 community colleges, four regional Connecticut state universities and an online college, but sources say the board is working to find an interim successor as part of a transition plan.
People considered for the interim post include Mark Ojakian, the governor’s outgoing chief of staff, and Elsa Núñez, the president of Eastern Connecticut State University.
“Transitions are really difficult sometimes. Hopefully, whatever transition the board has in mind will be a smooth transition,” said Núñez during an interview, adding she is not seeking the position.
Ojakian declined to be interviewed for this article.
Gray’s $380,000-a-year contract expires in 11 1/2 months, and the governing board for the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities is required to give him 12 months’ notice if they plan to terminate his contract. Gray must provide the board with three months’ notice if he plans to leave.
Neither the board nor Gray have provided each other with a formal notice.
Asked after the Board of Regents’ June 25 meeting about his plans, and whether he intends to ask the board to extend his contract, Gray was coy.
“I am still a young boy. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” he joked, and walked away.
The board’s executive committee is scheduled to meet Thursday morning.
Gray — who has more than 40 years of experience in higher education administration — became the leader of Connecticut’s 90,000-student college system during the Summer of 2013.
Gray’s relationship with faculty splintered last fall after he spent $1.97 million hiring outside consultants to craft a controversial plan to overhaul the college system. Faculty fear that plan would strip them of their academic independence.
Attempts to reconcile have failed, and faculty panels at the four regional universities and at seven community colleges have cast votes of no confidence in Gray. Those votes have no legal impact but show faculty frustration.
Gray’s relationship with key state legislators deteriorated after he approved the closure of a community college campus in Meriden in response to proposed budget cuts. That campus was located in the district of Sen. Danté Bartolomeo, co-chair of the legislative committee that oversees higher education.
Because of this history, a departure by Gray would not be a surprise. Gray also listed his condo for sale earlier this year.
Michael Kozlowski, a spokesman for the college system, said Monday that Gray has made no decision on whether to seek an extension to his contract.
“As it stands right now, he is going to continue until the end of his contract June 30th,” he said. “He has not decided to leave.”
The governing board has options for Gray’s departure, including entering into a separation agreement or allowing his contract to expire.