The politicization of the CT Board of Regents – continues unabated

And so it goes…

When it comes to setting higher education policy in Connecticut, politics is the dominant factor, especially when it relates to Connecticut’s State Universities and Community Colleges.

Governor Dannel Malloy’s ill-conceived merger of the two systems into the Connecticut Board of Regents has been an unmitigated disaster.  Billed as a way to save money, the merger has led to the growth of administrative bloat and a reduction in education and student programing.

Further undermining Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education has been Governor Malloy’s insistence on making historic cuts in state funding for the colleges and universities, cuts that have led to significantly higher tuition and fees for Connecticut students trying to get a college education.

Malloy’s initial choice to run the combined CSU and Community College system resigned in disgrace after illegally handing out $350,000 in bonuses to his staff.

The legislature responded by taking away Malloy’s direct appointment authority and giving it to the Board of Regents, where it belonged.

However, the person they selected to serve as President of the Regent system recently resigned after alienating virtually everyone associated with Connecticut’s state universities and colleges and losing the moral authority to lead the system.

Now the Board of Regents, led by Nicholas Donofrio, a former IBM executive who is involved in the distance learning industry and donated $40,000 to Governor Malloy’s 2014 campaign slush fund, has moved quickly to name an Interim President for the Regents.  Their choice is Governor Malloy’s Chief of Staff.

Dr. Michael Gargano, the former Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs for the Connecticut State College and University System has authored a commentary piece about this latest development.

Dr. Gargano has a deep understanding of the important roles that the Connecticut State Universities and the Connecticut Community Colleges could and should be playing in the educational, economic, and cultural health of Connecticut.

He has also witnessed, firsthand, how politics has undermined the mission of Connecticut’s public universities and colleges.

His commentary piece first appeared in the CT Mirror and New Haven Register.

The Appointment of the Governor’s Chief of Staff as CSCU President Is Not About Education (By Michael Gargano, Jr.)

Many assumed the next President of the Connecticut State College and University System would have an extensive background in education. Some are disappointed with the recent news, but, the appointment of the Governor’s Chief of Staff as interim President for the Connecticut State College and University System has nothing to do with education. Nor does it have anything to do with academic quality or rigor; nor does it have anything to do with placing equal emphasis on the universities and community colleges; nor does it have anything to do with faculty or students; nor does it have anything to do with reducing the hostility that exist between the 16 campuses and the System office, the Board of Regents, and selected Legislators.

My read of the tea leaves is the appointment is based upon the primary strength of the appointee which is collective bargaining experience and budget and finance expertise. I suspect as the collective bargaining agreements are up for re-negotiation in 2016, the interim president will seek significant concessions from faculty, staff and others. This is a critical negotiation to help Governor Malloy, Ben Barnes and the Legislature balance the state budget. In addition, the state budget is based upon various revenue projections that probably will not materialize that could result in a midyear budget reduction to the CSCU system and other government agencies. Hence, the contract negotiations are critical.

Now that the no layoff policy has sunset, it is also reasonable to envision the President and Board to renew efforts to reduce low enrolled academic programs resulting in faculty and staff layoffs; probably increase efforts for more online courses and degree programs also resulting in faculty layoffs; a consolidation of back office operations like purchasing and human resources resulting in staff layoffs; outsourcing services like maintenance and housing to save money; consider system-wide contracts for dining services and bookstore operations; increase efforts to eliminate tenure compensation but maintain academic freedom; a reduction in tenure track faculty and more reliance on contingent instructors; and a right sizing of  the System office resulting in additional layoffs.

All of the above will be hidden under the higher education buzz word-efficiency. The Board will spin this as a means to make education more affordable for students. At the time of the merger of the two systems, the Governor’s press release in 2011 indicated “a sweeping plan to overhaul the state’s higher education governance and structure to provide more resources for classroom teaching and instruction to help increase the number of students receiving degrees, while at the same time, saving tax payers and students tens of millions of dollars over time.” There has been no noticeable savings to date, but, the Governor and Legislature has decided to provide less public funds to the CSCU system resulting in fiscal instability. The promise to save tax payers money might be one of the reasons why the 2015 Legislature passed a Bill to cap compensation at the System office.

The Governor has all his preferred people in charge-all Regents have been handpicked by the Governor and approved by the Legislature, the Board Chair is a major donor to the Governor, the Board has handpicked college presidents that align with their philosophy, and the Governor’s Chief of Staff is now System President.  The Governor owns the CSCU system. He is now accountable for the results. There are no obstacles to his pledge to save taxpayers and students tens of millions of dollars.

It has never been about quality education that prepares students for professional careers and preparing students to compete with other graduates around the world for the best careers, admission to the best graduate schools, and prepares graduates to evolve into new careers as the economy changes. The merger has always been about cost reduction which means less faculty, staff and others.

Truth of the matter following the previous president is an easy assignment. Mr. Ojakian is well respected by the political community; he will communicate better, be more consistent and trustworthy, be responsive in a timely manner and provide evidence based facts to support his case. He’ll exhibit a human side with listening skills that show compassion. Time will tell, but, I think you’ll get a sense of the President’s agenda rather quickly.

You can read and comment on the original commentary piece here:


The Hoax called “Transform CSCU 2020.”

Thanks to an appointment from Governor Dannel Malloy, former IBM Executive Nicholas Donofrio serves as Chairman of the Connecticut Board of Regents.  Over the last thirteen months, Donofrio and his wife donated $40,000 to the slush fund that the Governor’s campaign operation used to get around Connecticut’s campaign finance law, thereby allowing them to funnel an additional $5.1 million into his campaign, in addition to the $6.5 million taxpayer funded check he took from the state’s “Clean Election Fund.”  With those donations Donofrio can pride himself on being one of Malloy’s biggest campaign contributors.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that at the recent Board of Regents meeting in December, Chairman Nicholas Donofrio addressed Malloy’s controversial “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative by asking his fellow Regents, “Anyone against this?”

And except for the two non-voting faculty representatives on the Board of Regents who have highlighted the very real problems with “Transform CSCU 2020,” there was not a word of concern raised by any of the members whose duty it is to set policy for the seventeen universities and colleges that make up Connecticut’s State Universities and Community College System.

The failure of Malloy’s appointees to the Board of Regents to speak out spoke volumes about the growing disaster that is taking shape as a result of the failed leadership of the Board of Regents and Regent President Gregory Gray.

The truth is that Transform CSCU 2020 is more than a hoax.

Transform CSCU 2020 is nothing short of a plan to downsize and limit the incredible potential that is Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education.

Here is the background;

As part of his Election Year budget, Governor Dannel Malloy held a press conference at Manchester Community College on February 12, 2014 outlining what he called “Transform CSCU  2020” – a “major initiative” for Connecticut’s State Universities and Community Colleges.

Malloy told the assembled crowd, including Connecticut’s media,

“We know that 70-percent of jobs in 2020 will require postsecondary education. That’s why it is imperative that we garner support for these necessary investments in our students.

Let’s move our state university and community college system into the 21st Century. Let’s do that together.”

Reading from the day’s same political script, Gena Glickman, the President of Manchester Community College, added,

“We’re here today to celebrate the governor’s goal to support student success by his investment…. It’s this investment that will better position us to be on the leading edge with our academic programs and will increase public higher education’s role in sustaining and expanding economic vitality for this state of Connecticut.”

But when the dust settled and this year’s fiscal year began on July 1, 2014, Malloy’s “major initiative,” which was paid for with “one-time” revenues, didn’t even begin to fill the budget shortfall created by the Governor’s unprecedented cuts to the state’s public colleges and universities.

Putting aside the Malloy administration’s false claims surrounding “Transform CSCU 2020” is the harsh reality that Malloy and his administration have been engaged in a four year war to undermine, devalue and denigrate the vital role played by Connecticut’s four State Universities, twelve Community Colleges and Charter Oak College.

When Governor Malloy took office in January 2011, the total direct block grants that the State of Connecticut provided these institutions totaled more than $326 million.

While Governor Malloy put hundreds of millions of dollars on the state’s credit card to pay for new buildings at Connecticut colleges and universities, he implemented a series of unprecedented budget cuts that dramatically shifted the costs of operating Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education on to the backs of Connecticut’s students and their families.

As a direct result of Malloy’s budget cuts, the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges began this year’s budget (FY15) with a very real deficit that was in excess of $40 million.

On that day in February 2014, Governor Malloy claimed that his “major initiative” would, “move our state university and community college system into the 21st Century.” But in truth, the plan called “Transform CSCU 2020” wasn’t even enough to fill the budget hole that he had created, let alone provide the “extra” money the universities and colleges needed to “move into the 21st Century.”

As noted, what makes Malloy’s “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative even worse is that it is funded using one-time revenue, which means that the deficit that for Connecticut’s state universities and colleges in next year’s budget will be $42 million larger than the one that is already undermining the schools ability to provide the services that Connecticut’s students need and deserve.

Rather than actually “invest” in Connecticut’s institutions of public higher education, “Transform CSCU 2020” was a one-time payment funded with $23 million in surplus state dollars from the year before and a transfer of $19 million from the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation.

Even more insulting is that as part of their management of the initiative, the Board of Regents inappropriately spent $1.8 million on an out-of-state consulting group called The Boston Consulting Group.  The Regents and its President claimed that expensive contract was needed in order to develop an appropriate plan for the “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative.

But now the Regents are claiming that the consultants were never supposed to develop a plan, but were merely retained to provide a series of “road maps” for the Regents to follow.

So what was Chairman Donofrio’s referring to when he asked, “Anyone against this?”

You can call it a “plan” or a “series of roadmaps,” but at no point did Regent Chairman Donofrio or the other Regents properly explain that the legislation actually allocating the funds for “Transform CSCU 2020” already mandated where much of those funds were to be spent.

Those specific areas included, (1) $6 million for the “Go Back To Get Ahead” program, (2) $1 million for the Early College program and (3) $10.8 million for the “Developmental Education” program.

As can be seen in the chart below, the law even required how the $10.8 million was to be allocated across the institutions.

“Transform CSCU 2020” was billed as a program to move Connecticut’s State Universities and Community Colleges into the 21st Century.

The Regents and their President claim to have a “plan,” but in reality, Malloy’s initiative was nothing more than a one-time allotment of funds that were used as a  pay off to a politically connected consulting group, fund a portion of the remedial education courses at the institutions, and help a small group of students get back into college.

If the Connecticut General Assembly doesn’t act quickly, Malloy and his Regents will certainly be “Transforming” Connecticut’s State Universities and Community Colleges…and the “transformation” will be designed to undermine the vital role these institutions are supposed to be serving.

Oh, and here is how the law mandated the $10.8 million portion of the “initiative” to be spent.

Developmental Education Fiscal Year 2015
Asnuntuck  $                215,866
Capital  $                472,009
Gateway  $                991,308
Housatonic  $                688,552
Manchester  $                947,411
Middlesex  $                375,163
Naugatuck Valley  $                915,054
Northwestern  $                174,910
Norwalk  $                812,099
Quinebaug  $                232,158
Three Rivers  $                570,663
Tunxis  $                554,372
Community College Total  $             6,949,564
Central  $                469,565
Eastern  $                469,565
Southern  $                469,565
Western  $                469,565
CSU Total  $             1,878,260
Adult Education:
Asnuntuck  $                  61,259
Capital  $                133,948
Gateway  $                281,317
Housatonic  $                195,400
Manchester  $                268,860
Middlesex  $                106,465
Naugatuck Valley  $                259,677
Northwestern  $                  49,637
Norwalk  $                230,461
Quinebaug  $                  65,883
Three Rivers  $                161,945
Tunxis  $                157,322
GRAND TOTAL  $           10,800,000

ALERT – The on-going effort to destroy CSU and the Community Colleges

The CT Mirror had an excellent article last Friday entitled, CSCU leader says balking faculty will eventually praise transformation plan.” It highlights some of the issues surrounding the uproar about Governor Malloy’s “Transform CSCU 2020” plan.

It would appear that the basic problem with the Transform CSCU 2020 “initiative” can best summed up by the naïve comment of Regent President Gregory Gray who told the CT Mirror,

“All of this [plan] is very supportable…I think the faculty, when they really learn more about it, and participate before it becomes a final plan, I do believe they are going to praise it.”

Like a true champion of corporate education reform, Gray appears committed to the notion that a “post-modern,” corporate oriented approach to public higher education is a “simple” solution to providing Connecticut’s residents with the higher educational opportunities they need and deserve in today’s complex world.

Like so much of the corporate education reform movement, the rhetoric sounds great, but the product produced is the antithesis of what is best for students, faculty and the society at large.

It is a sad commentary, although not surprising, that when you turn public primary, secondary and higher education over to the corporate elite and their well-paid consultants, you end up with a “business plan” that appears financially attractive but lacks the sophistication necessary to produce an education system that recognizes that all students can learn and thrive, but not all students learn and thrive at the same time or in the same way.

Most importantly, these corporate driven plans tend to think of educators as if they are the greeters at Wal-Mart, the re-stockers at Target or the checkout workers at the Dollar store.

While all of those positions are vital to the success of an advanced capitalist retail establishment, the model is not transferable to the “education sector,” although the corporate reformers are either unable or unwilling to recognize that truth.

The CT Mirror piece lays out the key issues underlying the failure of the Transform CSCU 2020 plan including;

  • “An unpopular merger of the bachelor-degree granting Connecticut State Universities with the state’s online and community colleges created a 90,000-student system and left many faculty uneasy.
  • A cut in the portion of funding provided by the state legislature challenged the 16-campus system that was already facing significant shortfalls.
  • A trio of serious missteps by the new system’s first president led to his dismissal and further damaged faculty confidence in the organization’s leadership.”

But in the end, the botched development and roll-out of Transform CSCU 2020 rests with the President of the Board of Regents, the Board of Regents and their $1.8 million consultants.

The plan to transform Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges was driven by a consulting company called Boston Consulting Group (BCG).  As CT Mirror notes, the plan is a “long list of ‘road maps’ for implementation; and used language that to faculty was strange, bureaucratic and off-putting, referring to such things as collecting ‘payroll and staffing data’ to ‘identify key opportunities’ with the goal of ‘program optimization.’”

Observers shouldn’t be surprised by the junk delivered by the Boston Consulting Group. While $1.8 million might sound excessive, the Regent President and the Board of Regents got exactly what they paid wanted and paid for…or at least they got exactly what they should have expected.

The Boston Consulting Group is a massive, multi-national consulting company whose fame comes, in part, from helping companies transform themselves into international competitors by outsourcing every possible function and laying off Americans in the process.

The Boston Consulting Group is also infamous for its unending commitment to the corporate education reform industry agenda of privatizing schools, undermining teachers and the teaching profession and recommending that progress can only be achieved by crushing unions and rolling back collective bargaining rights.

Topping their list of “successes” is their present plan to privatize much of Philadelphia‘s public school system.  Their proposal, for which they were paid millions of dollars, has been to lay off teachers, dramatically expand the number of privately run, but publicly funded charter schools, out-source services and replace people with technology.

As the CT Mirror story notes in its story, Regent President Gray now says that he was surprised by the backlash against the plan that he and the Board of Regents developed in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group.

If Regent President Gray was really surprised, then that – as we say – says it all!

As reported in early Wait, What? blog posts, the problems with the Transform CSCU 2020 are not new.

Transform CSCU 2020 started with the wrong approach to developing a comprehensive plan, utilized the wrong consultants and was backed by a Board of Regents who don’t have the understanding or experience with Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges to even know what a successful plan would look like.

The wrong approach to developing the plan:

When announcing their decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group to develop the plan to transform the state university and community college system in April 2014, Regent President Gray said he was confident that the private company with 81 offices in 45 countries had the credentials to do the job.

At the same time, an “Executive Steering Committee” was named to oversee the process, a group whose membership failed to include any faculty, staff, students or alumni members.

Instead, the Transform CSCU 2020 Executive Steering Committee consisted of Board of Regents Chairman Nicholas Donofrio; Board of Regents President Dr. Gregory Gray; The Boston Consulting Group lead Partner on the project, J. Puckett; Catherine Smith, Malloy’s Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; and John Rathgeber, President of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

While having business interests at the table is certainly appropriate when developing a comprehensive plan for Connecticut’s state universities and colleges, a successful system of public higher education requires more than just a business orientation.

In fact, the notion that something as large, complex and important as the Connecticut state universities and community colleges can be “transformed” from the top down, led by an all business sector Executive Steering Committee that lacks faculty, staff, student or alumni is, in and of itself, a sign that Malloy’s appointees lacked the vision, wisdom and understanding to do the job right.

Transform CSCU 2020:  The Wrong High- Cost Consultants:

Regent President Gray and the Board of Regents’ decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group was also wrong from the start.  The Boston Consulting Group record makes it absolutely clear that it does not understand and respect the culture and environment surrounding education.

The Boston Consulting Group’s plan for the Philadelphia Public Schools provides clear and convincing proof of that problem.  In Philadelphia, the Boston Consulting Group’s recommendation including a plan to “essentially wipe out collective bargaining,” including removing tenure for public school teachers and allowing administrators to hire and fire at will.  The BCG report also recommended “outsourcing maintenance and transportation services,” including getting rid of those who belonged to SEIU Local 32BJ District 1201 unless they gave up their collective bargaining rights.  At its core, the Boston Consulting Group plan for Philadelphia was about replacing public education with publicly funded charter schools.

You can read more about BCG’s dismal approach in Philadelphia via the following links;

Report detailing Boston Consulting Group findings and recommendations released; BCG ‘collective bargaining reform’ and what it would mean for teachers; More About the Boston Consulting Group: Read It and Weep; Ethics complaint accuses Boston Consulting Group, William Penn Foundation of violating lobbying code; Put the Boston Consulting Group where it belongs – before the public; Boston Consulting Group has been a driving force on labor talks, school closings, and charters

And as if that was  not proof enough of the inappropriateness of choosing the Boston Consulting Group, the Board of Regents should have simply read the articles written by the Boston Consulting Group’s lead consultant for the Transform CSCU 2020 plan, J. Puckett. Puckett is the Boston Consulting Group’s “senior partner and managing director” in their Dallas office and is the leader of their “global Education practice.”

Puckett’s articles, including “An Education in Making a Difference,” “The State of Public Education in New Orleans, 2008 Report and “Can Technology Revolutionize Education?.”  They paint the picture of a true champion of the corporate education reform industry.

When writing about the future of public education, Puckett writes, “There are several successful U.S. role models, such as New Orleans and Dallas,” adding, “The turnaround in New Orleans has been especially sharp.”

But of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

As we are painfully aware of here in Connecticut, the work of Paul Vallas and the other corporate education reform industry elite has been disastrous from Chicago to Philadelphia to New Orleans to Bridgeport.

Equally revealing is when the Boston Consulting Groups’ J. Puckett opines about the benefit of technology in the classroom saying, “Several providers, such as K12 and Connections Academy, offer a full range of products, including digital curricula, lesson plans, instructional tools, and teacher training. School systems can take advantage of these resources at greatly reduced costs, rather than go it alone.”

He adds, “Rocketship Education, a charter school network near San Francisco, with national expansion plans, is reinventing how learning takes place in the classroom, asking its students to spend 25 percent of each day in a “learning lab,” where they work on customized, computer-delivered material. During this time, the students are supervised by monitors, rather than teachers, saving significantly on costs.”

The real evidence about K12 Inc. and Rocketship Charter Schools is hardly positive, but anyone familiar with the needs of students would recognize the inherent problem with the notion that, “students are supervised by monitors, rather than teachers, saving significantly on costs.”

Finally, in a 2014 email Puckett makes it clear just what the Boston Consulting Group is doing.

Writing about a new partnership between Boston Consulting Group, the pro-education reform Gates Foundation and Harvard Business School, Puckett writes,

“The BCG-Gates-HBS PK-12 research focuses on best practices for partnerships between business leaders and educators to accelerate improvement in America’s schools. The research has identified three high-leverage ways in which business leaders can engage with educators to bring about significant change for the better:

* Laying the policy foundations for education innovation
* Scaling up proven innovations that boost student outcomes
* Reinventing the local education ecosystem in cities and regions

“It is our pleasure to share with you two joint research reports on these important topics. We hope the first report, Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools, will inspire business and education leaders to work together on the urgent task of transforming the nation’s education system. The second report, Partial Credit: How America’s School Superintendents See Business as a Partner, summarizes the findings of a nationwide study on U.S. competitiveness and business’ role in education.

Considering the long and proud history of the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges, the Boston Consulting Group should never have been hired for the job of developing Transform CSCU 2020.

A Board of Regents that lacks the necessary or appropriate experience:

Finally, as if the inappropriate top-down approach and selection of Boston Consulting Group wasn’t enough to undermine the legitimacy of the “Transform CSCU 2020” effort, there is the fact that Governor Malloy’s appointees to the Connecticut Board of Regents lack the necessary experience to properly oversee policies that impact the 92,000 students who attend the 17 diverse public universities and colleges that make up the Board of Regents CSCU system.

Many of these political appointees can claim successful careers as corporate executives or business people, but they lack of real-world experience and the experience with these institutions to lead the mission of creating a long-term plan for Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.

Malloy’s Board of Regent Trustees includes:

Regent Chairman Nicholas M. Donofrio, a former high ranking IBM executive who graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Syracuse University.  He continues to sit on the Board of Trustees for those two institutions.

Regent Vice- Chair Yvette Meléndez, the Vice President of Government and Community Alliances for Hartford Hospital. As her Regent biography proudly claims, “Her experience also includes roles at the State Department of Education, where she led Connecticut’s entry into the charter school movement.”    Her degrees come from Brooklyn College and  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. Lawrence DeNardis, the President Emeritus of the University of New Haven and a former United States Congressman.  His academic experience included time as an Associate Professor at Albertus Magnus College.  His degrees come from College of the Holy Cross and New York University.

Matt Fleury, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Science Center, having previously served as the Center’s Executive Vice President and COO.  His degree comes from the University of Connecticut School of Business.

David R. Jimenez, a shareholder of the law firm of Jackson Lewis. His Regent bio reports that he provides counsel to employers on a variety of strategic matters including HR compliance, outsourcing/in-sourcing HR initiatives, code of conduct development and organizational compliance, and management of employment law exposures.  His degrees are from University of Texas and Hofstra University School of Law,

Craig Lappen, the President of 21st Century Financial Advisors with degrees from Ohio Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut.

Bill McGurk, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Rockville Bank.  He is a graduate of Holy Cross College.

JoAnn H. Price, the co-founder and managing partner of Fairview Capital Partners, Inc. She is a graduate of Howard University.

Elease E. Wright, a former executive at Aetna Inc.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut and served on the Board of Directors for the UConn Foundation.

There are hree other Trustees who do have significantly more CSU or Community College experience, including former Speaker of the House and Lobbyist Richard J. Balducci, former Chair of the House Education Committee Naomi K. Cohen and former President of Charter Oak State College, Merle Harris, but like all good political appointee they have to be extremely cognizant of the wishes of the Malloy administration and their operatives.  The Board of Regents also includes two student representatives.

As the debate about Transform CSCU 2020 continues, the fact is that it could have been a powerful vision to create an even more vibrant state universities and community colleges, but that opportunity has been wasted with the work done to date.

You can read the CT Mirror story here: CSCU leader says balking faculty will eventually praise transformation plan

More on the controversial Transform CSCU 2020 can also be found in the Wait, What? blog entitled, “The stench coming from the Board of Regents.”

The stench coming from the Board of Regents

The October 9th Wait, What? post was entitled, “There is something very, very wrong going on at Connecticut’s Board of Regents.

But no, it was not a blog post about the growing controversy surrounding the effort to jam through the ill-conceived and damaging “Transform CSCU 2020” plan that is being pushed by Regent President Gregory Gray and the members of the Connecticut Board of Regents.

The Wait, What? blog with that title was posted more than two years ago (October 2012) and dealt with the myriad of problems that surfaced when the previous president of the Board of Regents, Robert Kennedy, illegally hand out nearly $300,000 in pay raises to employees in the central office despite state law and the SEBAC labor agreement that prevented such a maneuver.  Three days later, Kennedy submitted his resignation and was gone.

But the sad and shocking reality is that the notion that “there is something very, very wrong going on at Connecticut’s Board of Regents” is even truer today than it was two years ago.

In fact, the action being pursued by the Board of Regents and its current president may well be the worst proposal for public higher education in Connecticut history.

Rather than improve the quality and accessibility of a college education for tens of thousands of Connecticut students, their new plan, would leave Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges a sad empty shadow of what they once were and could be with the proper leadership and support.

To begin to understand the situation, all you have to do is read some of the recent news stories in the CT Mirror and Hartford Courant.

Faculty decry provost’s departure, president’s plan for CSCU’s future and ECSU faculty union gives president’s plans an F and Faculty push back on president’s plans for Connecticut State Universities and Regents Provost Resigns Abruptly After Less Than 8 Months and ECSU Faculty OK Organizing ‘No Confidence’ Vote On Regents President and Smart Classrooms Discussed At Board Of Regents Meeting

But the real problem behind the proposed “Transform CSCU 2020” is far more serious than the media coverage has yet explained.

When William Cibes served as the Chancellor of the Connecticut State University System and Mark Herzog served as the Chancellor of the Connecticut Community & Technical Colleges, the two not only worked to include faculty, staff, students, alumni and the greater community in the decision-making, but they stood as strong advocates for their institutions, rather than tools of any sitting governor.

When push came to shove, these higher education administrators understood that while they were part of the state government, their primary duty was to serve their institutions and their respective missions.

However, the focus of the leadership all changed when Governor Malloy decided to merge the two systems into one entity called the Board of Regents.

Malloy’s disastrous proposal would not have passed but for the lobbying effort of Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman who called Democratic members of the Education Committee to tell them to overrule their chairperson, State Representative Roberta Willis, who was rightly demanding significant changes to the legislation.

The merger of CSU and the Community Colleges was a bad idea to begin with and the situation has only gotten worse over the last three years.

Rather than recognize the importance of both systems, including the growing quality of the Connecticut State University System and the vital importance of the Community College System, the Malloy administration – through its state budgets and appointments to the Board of Regents – has consistently undermined the fundamental mission of those institutions.

The plan to “transform” CSU and the community colleges is but the latest and most profound reminder of Malloy’s disastrous approach to public higher education in Connecticut.

Instead of appointing people who appreciate and understand the vital role that the Connecticut State University and the Community Colleges play, the Malloy administration and the people appointed to the Board of Regents have been engaged in a full-scale effort to limit the institutions’ ability to succeed while transferring the costs of running these public institutions onto the backs of the students and their families.

The problem is that the “Transform CSCU 2020” plan was developed by people who don’t appreciate the role these colleges and universities play in the fabric of Connecticut.

Incredibly, the Board of Regents appears equally blind.

Faced with the need to develop a strategic plan for these public institutions, the Board decided to overlook the expertise here in Connecticut or properly include the input of the faculty, staff, students and alumni of the universities and colleges.

Instead, President Gray and the Board of Regents paid $1.8 million to a multi-national consulting company called the Boston Consulting Group.

The Boston Consulting Group is an entity dedicated to the notion of privatization and implementing “efficiencies.”

One of the Boston Consulting Group’s “claims to fame” is the recent plan to privatize Philadelphia’s public school system, a plan that was adopted by a right-wing governor and has led to the closure of public schools across that city and the rapid expansion of privately-owned, but publicly-funded charter schools.

Some are rightly focused on the question of why the Boston Consulting Group would be allowed to develop such a disastrous “Transform CSCU 2020” plan?

But an equally important question is why the Board of Regents would even hire the consulting group in the first place and whether the majority of the board even knew about the Boston Consulting Group’s history or the appearance of what could be considered serious conflicts of interests?

Insiders at the Board of Regents report that Boston Consulting Group came via the endorsement of President Gray and Nicholas M. Donofrio, the chairman of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

When announcing their decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group to develop the plan to transform the state university and community college system in April 2014, Regent President Gray said he was confident that the private company with 81 offices in 45 countries had the credentials to do the job.

An Executive Steering Committee was also named to oversee the process, a group whose membership failed to include any faculty, staff, students or alumni members.  Instead the Executive Steering Committee consisted of Board of Regents Chairman Nicholas Donofrio; Board of Regents President Dr. Gregory Gray; J Puckett, Boston Consulting Group Partner and Managing Director; Catherine Smith, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; and John Rathgeber, President of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

As the controversy surrounding the Boston Consulting Group plan grows, the role of the Board of Regents, and especially its Chairman Nicholas Donofrio, become increasingly important.

The question now is whether the Board will stand up for what is in the best of the state and its citizens or will it continue to align itself with the corporate junk being delivered by the Boston Consulting Group.

The answer may very well rest with Nicholas Donofrio, the Chairman of the Board of Regents.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy nominated Nicholas Donofrio, a former high-ranking IBM executive, to the Board of Regents when the Board was created in 2011 and made him Chairman of the Board on December, 12, 2013.

Despite Connecticut’s Campaign Finance System that was supposed to keep pay-to-play and big money out of politics, Donofrio is what could best be described as one of Malloy’s “super donors.”

After Donofrio was put on the Board of Regents, he and his wife donated $20,000 to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s “federal account,” the entity that Malloy and his campaign operation used to funnel $4.6 million into his re-election campaign on top of the $6.5 million he got from the taxpayer funded State Elections Fund and the $15 million in out-of-state money that was spent to support Malloy’s candidacy this year.

After Donofrio was named chairman of the Board of Regents, he donated another $20,000 to the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee’s “federal account,” making him one of Malloy’s largest donors.  During the same period, Donofrio and is wife also gave the Democratic National Committee more than $103,000.

At the time Malloy appointed Donofrio to serve as the Chairman of the Board of Regents, he praised him for his connections to the “business community” noting that “Donofrio consults and speaks nationally and internationally on a broad range of topics including innovation, technology and education for a broad range of clients and audiences.”

What Malloy didn’t explain was the depth of Donofrio’s real or potential conflicts of interests when it came to serving as the chair and as a guardian of Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.

Some of those issues might explain how Boston Consulting Group got a lucrative $1.8 million contract to develop a plan that is counter to what is in the best interests of Connecticut and its citizens.

But the record fails to indicate whether Malloy or Donofrio even informed the Board of regents about the potential conflicts of interest.

It turns out that Nicholas Donofrio not only serves as Chairman of the Connecticut Board of Regents but he is a twenty-year veteran of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Board of Trustees and a long-time member of Syracuse University’s Board of Trustees.   He also chaired a special committee that recommended that the University of Vermont have more private trustees and fewer appointed by public officials.

In addition to his relationship with other universities that recruit students from Connecticut,  Donofrio serves on a long list of corporate boards including of The Bank of New York, Wigix, Inc., The MITRE Corporation, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., Liberty Mutual Holding Company, Inc., TopCoder, Inc., Sproxil, Inc. and Delphi Automotive PLC.  He also serves on the boards of StarVest Partners, L.P, Atlas Research LLC., and O’Brien & Gere Limited.

Interestingly, this year State Treasurer Denise Nappier used her voting authority as head of the state pension fund to cast votes for Donofrio for the lucrative board positions on Delphi Automotive plc, The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.  The State Treasurer did the same thing in 2012.

Donofrio also served as one of the members of the Bush administration’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, thanks to the appointment he received from Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

Thanks to a number of these positions, Donofrio has had extensive contact with Boston Consulting Group and those associated with the company.

For example, after leaving her position as Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings formed an education consulting firm and now serves as a senior adviser to the Boston Consulting Group.

Donofrio’s role on the board of The MITRE Corporation also puts him in contact with another senior Boston Consulting Group adviser, Michèle Flournoy.

And other companies Donofrio is affiliated with have retained the services of the Boston Consulting Group, including Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. who brought in the Boston Consulting Group to advise the company on strategy when it decided to restructure and lay off thousands of employees.

While these connections may or may not rise to a conflict of interest, the decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group to “transform” CSU and the Community Colleges is extremely troubling.

And the decision is made worse because of the unlikelihood that Regent President Gray or Regent Chairman Donofrio will do the right thing and throw out this flawed proposal so that a proper plan can be developed with the true input from faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community.

Perhaps even more troubling is Malloy’s conflict of interest.

For someone who claims to be right even when he is wrong, there is ample reason to believe that he won’t demand that the Board of Regents do the right thing when one of his biggest donors is Nicholas Donofrio, who as Chairman of the Board of Regents appears committed to the flawed “Transform CSCU 2020” plan.