Pitt Vice Chancellor withdraws from UMass Boston chancellor search


Kathy Humphrey, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for engagement, poses for a photo when she first got the job. Now, she has withdrawn her candidacy as a finalist for chancellor UMass Boston amid controversy surrounding the university’s selection process. (TPN File Photo)

Pitt Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement Kathy Humphrey withdrew her name from consideration for the chancellor position at the University of Massachusetts Boston Tuesday amid controversy surrounding the nomination and confirmation processes.

The other two finalists for the position, Peter Lyons — the vice provost and dean of Perimeter College at Georgia State University — and Jack Thomas — the president of Western Illinois University — also withdrew their names from consideration after a group of faculty members publicly questioned the candidates’ qualifications.

Humphrey took over as Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for engagement in January 2015. She served as vice provost and dean of students at Pitt for nine years before that.

A 15-member search committee was commissioned to find a new chancellor for UMass Boston after Interim Chancellor Barry Mills announced his intention to leave the school in the summer, and Humphrey was announced as one of the three finalists for the job May 11.

But after seven months of searching, the three finalists withdrew their candidacies after a faculty group at UMass Boston sent a statement Friday to the school’s top administration.

“None of the final candidates have demonstrated that they are sufficiently qualified to serve as the chancellor of the only public research university in the Greater Boston area and the most diverse four-year public institution in New England,” the group wrote.

The chair of the search committee commissioned by UMass Boston, Henry M. Thomas, criticized the faculty group for what he called lack of respect for African-American leadership, according to The Boston Globe. Two of the three candidates, including Humphrey, were African American. Faculty involved at UMass Boston denied race played a role in the release of the statement.

UMass Boston President Martin Meehan released an open letter addressing the candidates’ withdrawals on the university’s website.

“It is with profound disappointment that I write to inform you that all three finalists recommended by the UMass Boston Chancellor Search Committee have withdrawn from consideration, bringing to an unceremonious end a seven-month search process,” Meehan wrote.

Meehan went on to express embarrassment at the way UMass Boston’s faculty handled its disagreement with administration.

“I was mortified when the candidates’ commitment and qualifications were questioned in public forums, including the news media and social media,” Meehan wrote. “I have apologized personally to each of them on behalf of the campus community.”

Meehan said he does not intend to re-open the search for a chancellor immediately, calling a new search “untenable at this time.”

A version of this story which appeared in The Pitt News’ May 23 print edition incorrectly called Humphrey Pitt’s ex-vice chancellor for senior engagement. That is incorrect. Humphrey is Pitt’s current senior vice chancellor for engagement. The Pitt News regrets this error.