Former Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg stepped away from a tumultuous Beacon Hill on Thursday afternoon to speak to a class of political science students at his alma mater. After the visit, Rosenberg said he hopes his name will be cleared by an upcoming Senate investigation.
Sen. Rosenberg took what he calls a "leave of absence" from his post amid bombshell allegations against his husband, Bryon Hefner. The Senate Ethics Committee is preparing to hire a special investigator to look into whether Rosenberg acted improperly or violated Senate rules in relation to anonymously reported allegations against Hefner that include sexual assault, harassment and possible interference with Senate business.
When asked, investigation aside, how he would work with Senate President Harriette Chandler on his priorities, Rosenberg said he was not doing interviews.
"No interviews today," Rosenberg said.
When asked whether he hoped his name would be cleared and he could return to the Senate presidency, Rosenberg initially said "of course" and then asked a reporter to repeat the question.
"I hope my name will be cleared and I don't want to say anything more beyond that," Rosenberg said before the full question could be restated.
But in professor Ray La Raja's Political Science 101 class at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the focus was not on the scandal, according to one student, who told the News Service Rosenberg spoke to the undergraduates about governance and representation.
Rosenberg, who was first elected to represent Amherst in the House in 1987 and first elected to the Senate in 1991, graduated from the university in 1977.
La Raja told the News Service he asked students to refrain from asking questions about the Senate investigation and allegations against Hefner, saying it was a matter of due process and didn't have much to do with the class. Rosenberg had agreed to speak with the class three weeks ago about governance and representation, La Raja said. Students would not be penalized for asking any question, he added.
Sophomore Nick Groblewski, 20, said the allegations and investigation did not come up during class, which he said was made up of about 150 students.
"We kind of just avoided that like the elephant in the room," Groblewski said of the Hefner allegations and investigation. "We mostly talked about the institutions of state legislature."
"It's kind of a moot topic because they're in the middle of the investigation," Groblewski added. "I don't want to say it's entirely relevant to the course which is also a reason why the professor didn't want us to ask."
Support for Rosenberg in the western part of the state runs strong, two town officials said earlier this week. Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman told the News Service that Rosenberg's history of integrity has built a "deep well of support" for him in town.
On Beacon Hill, Rosenberg's colleagues have repeatedly expressed their admiration for him, but with the results of the investigation unknown as many as four senators have already shown interest in being elected Senate president once acting president Harriette Chandler completes her run in the post. Chandler was elected acting president Monday night, but said she would step down from the leadership post following the conclusion of the Rosenberg investigation.
This story was originally published by the State House News Service.