WSU President Dobelle placed on paid administrative leave - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

WSU President Dobelle placed on paid administrative leave

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© Interim President, Dr. Elizabeth Preston courtesy © Interim President, Dr. Elizabeth Preston courtesy
Current President, Dr. Evan Dobelle Current President, Dr. Evan Dobelle

Westfield State University has selected an acting president while current president, Dr. Evan Dobelle serves out his paid administrative leave.

Dr. Elizabeth Preston has been selected for the position.

She serves as the Vice President of Academic Affairs.

She said she will assure the day-to-day operations of the university are carried out.

In a statement issued to CBS 3 acting President, Dr. Elizabeth Preston said, "I have been at Westfield for two and a half decades; I know us to be an extraordinary group of individuals, dedicated to giving our best to the institution.  We share a deep and abiding commitment to the mission of the University and to our students."

After 10 hours of meeting in executive session, the Westfield State Board of Trustees voted to place President Evan Dobelle on paid administrative leave pending another investigation into his spending of the Westfield State Foundation's money. 

"I wish I could speak to you, but the reality is, I can't," said Dobelle briefly before police blocked the media from asking any questions. 

His lawyer, Ross Garber, said he was not surprised by the vote, but he was still disappointed. 

"Given the limited amount of information that the board had, given the unfair process and given the enormous political pressure, I am not surprised by the results. I hope and expect and insist in the next couple of weeks that the board and the public can get a full story," said Garber. 

Wednesday's vote stems from a report released back in August that showed Dobelle mixed personal and business expenses on the university's credit card. 

Dobelle has insisted that every dime he has spent was for the good of the school. 

Since he took office, the school has seen millions of dollars in revenue and has undergone a series of renovations, including a new dormitory and updates to classrooms. 

Dobelle's leave will continue until Nov. 25 while a second investigation into his spending is done by the Boston law firm Fish and Richardson. 

Westfield State Board of Trustees Chairman John Flynn said the board voted unanimously to place Dobelle on leave. 

Dobelle's attorney said they are considering taking legal action against the board because they said trustees violated Dobelle's rights by hiring an auditor last year without full approval from the entire board. 

Before the trustees voted to place Dobelle on leave, the campus faculty and library union held a no-confidence vote in Dobelle. 

The breakdown of those votes include: 138 voting no confidence, 61 voting confidence and 16 voting abstained. 

"I voted no confidence in our president because I feel he cannot lead the institution anymore, but that's my own opinion," said Buzz Hoagland, chair of the Biology Department. 

But amid both of Wednesday's votes, there is still support on campus for Dobelle. 

"I have full confidence in my president. It's unfortunate that the campus is so divided now because there are people who are very supportive of him," said faculty member Laurie Simpson. 

Students at the college said the entire ordeal has been frustrating for them. 

"They've been keeping us out of this process for way too long. The fact that they haven't included us in anything, as the statement from Dobelle has ostracized us away from this process is very disheartening for us," said senior Victor Martinez-Dias. 

Westfield State released a statement on Wednesday's votes, reading in part, "At Westfield State University, we remain inspired by our students, their curiosity and ambition. With them in mind, we are proud of our accomplishments and continue to focus on achieving excellence every day." 

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