Will David Dooley continue as the president of the University of Rhode Island, the state’s flagship public university?

The answer is unclear for now, less than six months ahead of the July 1 expiration of Dooley’s current three-year contract. Under state regulations, Dooley was slated to make his intentions known by January 1.

Tim DelGiudice, chairman of the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education, said Dooley agreed to delay discussion of his future until a new governance structure for URI -- known as the Board of Trustees – is slated to become effective on February 1.

Through a university spokeswoman, Dooley declined an interview request from The Public’s Radio ahead of an initial discussion with the Board of Trustees.

Asked about Dooley’s future, DelGiudice said, “I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to speculate as to what his plans are, or what the Board of Trustees will decide. I’m sure they’ll look at his tenure in its totality and the transformative impact he’s had on the university and the state of Rhode Island, and moving it to becoming one of the premier research institutions on the East Coast, if not the country.”

Dooley became the 11th president of URI in July 2009. His most recent contract renewal came in 2017.

Dooley’s URI profile credits him with having “reshaped the University’s strategic direction, creating a set of broadly defined goals critical to the University’s evolution.” More details on that are outlined in a 2014 report, “Transformational Goals for the 21st Century.”

 Meanwhile, time is running out for the Rhode Island Senate to vet 17 nominees for the new URI board – created as part of the budget passed by the General Assembly last June -- since Gov. Gina Raimondo has yet to make her selections.

“If we get them soon, we’ll have adequate time, but we need them soon,” said Senate spokesman Greg Pare.

Raimondo spokesman Josh Block said the administration is still reviewing candidates for the new URI board, and that nominees are not expected to be unveiled this week.

The new Board of Trustees at URI will have 17 voting members and four non-voting ex-officio members.

The separate governance structure has been on URI’s wish-list for years. It was requested more recently by Dooley and championed by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello during the 2019 legislative session.

In a statement, Mattiello said the separate governance structure will support the development of URI. “A dedicated board of trustees is typical among universities, and provides institutions with flexible, responsive governance,” the speaker said. “This is a move that will help URI grow and improve, and I’m proud to help bring it about.”

DelGiudice raised concerns about the new board during testimony at the Statehouse last year.

“The Board of Trustees could turn out to be one of the best things that have ever happened to the university,” he said. “I was interested in some more of the details that are still being worked out between the council and the university, like past bond indebtedness, the bifurcation of the employees; the Council is the employer of record for all of the employees across the entire higher ed system.

DelGiudice added, “I wanted to spend the time and the due diligence to understand the impact to all of those things, past and future, before a decision was made. But that’s not how the process worked out.”

One change in the new governance structure for URI is how DelGiudice and Barbara Cottam, chairwoman of the Rhode Island Board of Higher Education, will become non-voting ex officio members of the new URI board. A faulty member and student will also be non-voting ex officio members.

Dooley’s current salary is $403,000. Before coming to URI, he was provost and vice president for academic affairs at Montana State in Bozeman, Montana, for 10 years.