Interim President Takes Over at Westfield State

An interim president has taken over at Westfield State University after trustees put President Evan Dobelle on paid administrative leave.

A statement from the university says day-to-day operations at the school will be led by Elizabeth Preston, the vice president for academic affairs.

“We share a deep and abiding commitment to the mission of the University and to our students. That passion for the institution has resulted in heated debate over the past few weeks but is also a source of strength for us as we wrestle with the challenges we now face,” Preston wrote Thursday in an email to faculty and staff, according to a university spokesperson.

Preston will serve at least until late November, when an outside investigation into Dobelle’s spending is scheduled to be complete.

“The board retained the professional services of the law firm of Fish & Richardson to conduct an investigation into the issues raised by the inspector general, including certain spending, employment and leadership concerns at the university, as well as the foundation,” Jack Flynn, the board’s chair, announced early Thursday morning.

Dobelle’s attorney, Ross Garber, says his client is considering legal action against the university. Garber says he hopes that over the next few weeks the school’s board and the public will get a fuller story of what’s happened at Westfield State.

New England Public Radio’s Jill Kaufman and Sam Hudzik contributed to this report.