Franklin Pierce University has named its first-ever “Civic Scholar-In-Residence,” not a surprise given the divisiveness that’s overtaken America’s civil discourse.
What might be a surprise is their pick to fill the chair: Former Executive Councilor and outspoken partisan progressive Andru Volinsky.
“Our students will learn greatly from Mr. Volinsky’s breadth of experience as a lawyer, elected official, and advocate as we continue to provide them opportunities to be confident and knowledgeable citizens,” Matthew Konieczka, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences said in a statement.
Granite State political insiders, however, were less charitable.
“The guy who accused the governor of racism and the first Black member of the state Board of Education (BOE) a ‘token,’ is going to lecture on civic engagement?” one political insider responded.
While FPU’s press release describes Volinsky as “a social justice advocate,” the former Executive Councilor and Democratic candidate for governor has had a problematic past on issues of race. In June 2020, he was forced to apologize in the face of complaints from Black Lives Matter and others after referring to the nomination of black candidates to appointed office as “tokenism” and declaring them “unqualified.”
“This is an exceedingly inappropriate and demeaning appointment to a very important board,” Volinsky added regarding the nomination of businessman Ryan Terrell to the BOE, the first Black nominee to the board.
Leaders in the Granite State’s Black community denounced Volinsky’s comments.
“The language was not necessary or appropriate,” said James T. McKim, president of the Manchester chapter of the NAACP.
“To be clear, denying a Black man a career opportunity because you do not agree w/him is racist,” tweeted local BLM activist Erika Perez at the time. “Black lives matter isn’t a statement of convenience. Volinsky’s microaggression had consequences and will not be forgotten.”
Volinsky eventually apologized, but issues remained. The Seacoast chapter of the NAACP held a follow-up meeting to consider calling for Volinsky to resign from the Executive Council over his statements.
Volinsky went on to lose the 2020 Democratic gubernatorial nomination to then-Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, 53-47 percent.
Volinsky is pleased to have the new position.
“I am very proud to join the Franklin Pierce University faculty as its inaugural Civic Scholar-in-Residence and pleased to have the opportunity to lecture and interact with students on such a critical topic for our times as civic engagement,” Volinsky said.
Franklin Pierce University officials declined to answer repeated requests for comment.
Mr. Volinsky’s first lecture, titled “Can the Constitution(s) save the American Dream?” is scheduled for Friday, September 17.