Tocco pledges 'aggressive' agenda to move system forward

By Daniel J. Fitzgibbons

The new chairman of the Board of Trustees promised this week to pursue an active agenda aimed at moving the University system into the top ranks of public higher education in the U.S.

“It will be aggressive, I promise you that,” said Stephen Tocco, who presided over his first trustees meeting on Nov. 8 meeting at the Lowell campus. “Be prepared to work hard.”

Tocco pledged to raise a number of issues, including containing student costs, with Governor-elect Deval Patrick and legislators.

“The governor-elect, in many visits around the state, mentioned the importance of public higher education,” said Tocco. “I expect we’ll hold his feet to the fire.”

Tocco said he and President Jack Wilson plan to meet with Patrick and legislative leaders within the next month. “We want to reach out to Deval Patrick in a very pro-active way.”

Calling student charges a high priority issue, Tocco said a report released last month by the Board of Higher Education outlines plans to expand state financial aid programs. Tocco, who also chairs the Board of Higher Education, said he hopes discussions with state officials will lead to an action plan on controlling student costs.

Since his appointment to the board in September, Tocco has stressed the importance of a strong public university system to the state’s educational, economic and social needs.

During this week’s meeting, the trustees also approved Tocco’s proposal to elect two vice chairs and a new slates of committee chairs. The new vice chairmen, Robert K. Sheridan and Robert J. Manning, will play a key role in leading the board, said Tocco.

Sheridan was appointed to the board in 2002 by Acting Gov. Jane Swift, while Manning was named a trustee in September by Gov. W. Mitt Romney.

The trustees also approved the creation of a new standing committee on Science, Technology and Research, chaired by John Armstrong.