The second president of the Board of Regents system, which includes the four state universities, 12 community colleges, and one online college, announced his resignation Friday evening.
Board of Regents President Gregory Gray said in a press release that he submitted his resignation to Board of Regents Chairman Nicholas Donofrio, effective Dec. 31, 2015.
“This decision was purely a personal one, arrived at after a number of months of consideration and discussion with my family,” Gray said. “There is still much more to be done for the CSCU system and its students. However, I will leave believing that we have accomplished a great deal for our students and for the state, and laid a solid foundation for the future.”
Gray is the second president of a higher education system that was created three years ago. The first, Robert Kennedy, resigned after handing out what many considered to be extravagant raises to his top executives.
Gray’s contract with a $380,000 annual salary was good through June 2016, but Donofrio maintained that his departure was voluntary.
“It is important to note that the decision was Greg’s alone, and that we know he arrived at this decision after much thought and discussion with his family,” Donofrio said.
Lawmakers, some of whom were not happy with Gray’s performance, were not surprised by his decision.
“My hope for our state universities and community colleges is that we can now move forward in the best interests of our students,” state Rep. Roberta Willis, co-chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, said. “For too long, the problems surrounding the CSUs were like a vortex that have taken the air out of making needed progress.”
Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, the other co-chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, said she’s surprised he didn’t announce his departure sooner.
She said she’s been very public about the need to get someone else to run the Board of Regents and looks forward to the opportunity to have a new president in place.
In addition to the non-binding, no-confidence votes by faculty at the four universities and at least seven of the community colleges, Gray upset lawmakers with an attempt to shut down the Meriden branch of Middlesex Community College.
Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, said the way the system is structured made Gray’s job almost impossible.
“There is very little room to maneuver when it comes to saving money, particularly since the colleges and universities don’t determine their own personnel costs,” Lavielle said. “On top of that, the legislature doesn’t seem to feel obligated to trust the BOR with making important decisions. Frankly, it’s hard to see how the BOR adds value. The surprise is really that he stayed as long as he did.”
Senate Minority leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Malloy set the course for this board and it has “spun out of control.”
“The board has served as an extension of the governor’s office for far too long and has not properly served Connecticut students,” Fasano said. “Gray’s departure should not be taken lightly.”
It’s unclear what benefits Gray will receive as he departs or what his contract dictates.
Fasano said the administration should be honest about whether they already have a plan to replace him. There’s speculation that Mark Ojakian, Malloy’s outgoing chief of staff who was instrumental in creating the board, would take over temporarily.