Academic fraud upends Boston’s notable career

Kristin Gustafson

Dreams of becoming a college president might be dashed for McKinley Boston after Friday’s report determined academic misconduct occurred on his watch.
Even though Boston, vice president of student development and athletics, will remain at the University until June 30, he will be stripped of his athletics duties. But his salary will remain the same.
Although the report named former men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins, former academic counselor Alonzo Newby and former University tutor Jan Gangelhoff as the central players in the corruption, Yudof said Boston missed opportunities to deal with wrongdoing.
Boston is the highest-ranking of the four men’s athletics administrators to lose their jobs.
Boston said he was unaware of any cheating between 1993 and 1998, when he served as University men’s athletics director and then-vice president for student development and athletics.
“The report says there were signals,” Boston said. “I didn’t see them, and my head wasn’t in the sand.”
He also said he trusted those that had been in charge.
“If I made a mistake, it was that I trusted people and empowered people, and unfortunately, the people I trusted and empowered didn’t do what they were supposed to do,” he said.
Boston accepted a 1995 promotion to the newly created position — combining athletics and student development for the first time. The position was created after he received an offer to head Florida State University’s athletics department, which would have made him the first black to lead a southern Division I-A athletic department.
But when the University countered Florida’s offer, Boston accepted because it put him on the path to his dream of someday heading a university of his own.
“I would say the opportunity … has been damaged,” Boston said. “In all candor, I think that opportunity may not be as great as it once was.”
Although Boston said he did not condone the actions, he said students and Gangelhoff knew they were doing something wrong.
“We are talking about an individual who was unethical, who obviously made some decisions and said that she wanted to do it,” Boston said Nov. 4. “If that was the case, then it could happen under any structure.”
When announcing Boston’s resignation, Yudof called him an honorable man with integrity.
Yudof also stressed Boston’s strong commitment to improving University access to disadvantaged students and students of color. Boston worked tirelessly to bridge the University and the broader community, Yudof said.
Boston, a former Gophers football star and University alumnus, came to the University in 1962 from Elizabeth City, N.C. He helped the University win its 1967 Big Ten football title when he earned all-conference honors.
After leaving the University, Boston played four years of professional football, going on to receive his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Montclair State University in New Jersey and his doctorate from New York University.
Boston served as the University of Rhode Island’s athletics director from 1988 until he became the University’s men’s athletics director in 1991.
In 1995, after Florida State University tried to recruit Boston away from the University, then-Gov. Arne Carlson organized 75 fans to greet Boston as he arrived back in the Twin Cities.
The University then offered him the newly created position of student development and athletics — a position that has now been divided as a result of Yudof’s decisions.
When faculty leaders recently criticized the conflict of interest inherent in this dual administrative role, Boston said he didn’t have strong feelings about the issue.
“I clearly, more than anyone, understand the professional challenges and management challenges of trying to wear two hats,” Boston said. “It is a very complicated, difficult job; it is a unique job.”
Nils Hasselmo, the former University president who created the position, said he could not believe Boston would condone academic misconduct.
“Somehow the supervision failed in some respect,” Hasselmo said of Boston, who he considers one of his best hires.
Ron Campbell, associate vice president for student development and athletics, said Boston has been a mentor to him during the past four years.
“He’s graciously given me his time, his energy and his experience and the people in his world that also helped to expand my world,” Campbell said of Boston.
The University’s decision was unfair, Campbell said, as it is difficult to hold Boston responsible for the actions of the 3,200 people he supervises. He also said black administrators are under more scrutiny than others.
“African-Americans (at the University) in particular find they have difficulty bonding, fewer friendships, guilt by association,” he said. “Then questions and judgments about your integrity, your ethics and your values come into play. That’s just the way it works.”
Boston, one of the few black University leaders, has also inspired students, staff and faculty members.
“He’s empowered me to be a stronger leader,” Campbell said.
Since becoming a vice president, Boston has added a leadership minor — a first for the University and a model for the nation.
Leadership course work based on community service — offering recognition for student leadership and giving theoretical background — makes leadership opportunities accessible to nonwhite students, said Jane Canney, associate vice president of student development and athletics.
“I was struck with how very thoughtful he is as a leader,” said Canney, who started working for Boston in 1995. “I think he really enriched the student experience here by his willingness to get into some really difficult issues.”
Attending the University was one of Boston’s first experiences around white people, Canney said. This experience led him to understand students better, she added.
Now, Canney said 84 percent of University students like their first-year experience, different from only a few years ago. She attributes that to Boston.
Besides the leadership minor, Boston reintroduced convocations after a 30-year absence, adding student housing and addressing alcohol issues.
“He brings to the table certain support from the African-American community, and I think for young African-American students he brings a significant role-model,” Canney said.
But the impact of the investigation has been painful for Boston and his staff, Canney said.
She said earlier this week that Boston would be a great college president.
“He has an ability to focus on a variety of issues, and I think he has an ability to look at the bigger picture and to drive a large ship,” she said.
But circumstances of Boston’s resignation could impact his chances, she said.
“He brings a rich background and very accomplished experience,” she said. “It’s hard to know if other vice presidents who are aspiring to be presidents in different institutions would have that opportunity, too.”

Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3211.