- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2003

D.C. Council members yesterday expressed disappointment with the University of the District of Columbia’s management, saying the problems that have plagued the school do not appear likely to be resolved.

“Unfortunately, it appears the beat goes on at UDC,” said council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican.

Her comments came in response to a report in The Washington Times yesterday that UDC President William J. Pollard has hired family friend Wilhelmina M. Reuben-Cooke as the school’s provost and vice president of academic affairs, the No. 3 job at the university. Mrs. Cooke is the wife of D.C. lawyer Edmund Cooke, who helped Mr. Pollard secure his $200,000-a-year job at UDC a year ago.

Council member Adrian M. Fenty yesterday said Mrs. Cooke’s hiring is a case of “bad timing.”

“This is a mistake that I see repeated over and over again … but when you hire people from the outside, these types of things happen,” Mr. Fenty said, referring to the hiring of Mrs. Cooke and of Mr. Pollard.

“When you come to a position in government, you need to adapt first and promote from within,” the Ward 4 Democrat said.

According to her resume, Mrs. Reuben-Cooke lacks the minimum education and work experience required for the job, as advertised in national education journals by the school’s search committee.

Mr. Pollard bypassed the school’s board of trustees and personally pushed her resume through the search committee, according to university officials familiar with the matter.

Mr. Fenty said he has spoken with several board members who are upset about how the hiring was handled. “The board has the ultimate authority here. We’ll see what, if any, action they take,” he said.

Mrs. Schwartz said the board “shouldn’t let these types of incidents slip past them in the first place” and deal with them as priorities.

What’s more, Mrs. Schwartz said, she has expressed concern publicly in recent weeks at council hearings, to the UDC board of trustees and to Mr. Pollard about complaints from students and faculty at the school.

Council members have been scrutinizing UDC’s president since The Times reported last month that Mr. Pollard offered a 6.4 percent pay raise to the school’s highest-paid administrators, retroactive to October. Students and faculty members threatened a walkout this fall to protest the proposed raise.

Last week, the board of trustees approved a salary freeze for the highest-paid administrators and revoked the pay raise, which would have included the executive management team recently hired by Mr. Pollard, many of whom earn more than $100,000 a year.

As UDC’s chief academic officer, Mrs. Reuben-Cooke will oversee academic programs, create academic policy, prepare academic budgets and lead the faculty. She begins her new $137,000-a-year job Wednesday.

In the university’s advertisement, the job qualifications called for a doctoral degree as a minimum educational requirement and an established record as a senior academic administrator.

Mrs. Reuben-Cooke holds a juris doctor degree from University of Michigan Law School — which is equivalent to a master’s degree, not a doctorate.

Her only experience as an administrator were 18 months she served in the early 1990s as associate dean for academic affairs at Syracuse University College of Law. She spent four years in the early 1980s as associate director of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center.

The bulk of her experience has been as a law professor at Syracuse University, where Mr. Pollard was a professor of social work and dean of the College of Human Services and Health Professions for nine years.

Rachel Petty, search committee chairwoman and dean of the UDC School of Arts and Sciences, said her panel looked beyond the minimum requirements in recommending Mrs. Reuben-Cooke.

Mrs. Petty said Mrs. Reuben-Cooke’s professional activities — such as serving on the board of trustees for Wells College, a women’s liberal arts school in Aurora, N.Y.; the Westover School, an all-girls high school in Middlebury, Conn.; and Duke University — helped her candidacy.

Mr. Pollard and Charles Ogletree Jr., chairman of the UDC board of trustees, both said Mrs. Reuben-Cooke was hired independent of the trustees, despite university accreditation standards that require trustees to confirm appointments of major academic and administrative officers.

Founded in 1976, the 5,000-student land-grant university has long been plagued by financial turmoil and low morale. In the mid-1990s, UDC racked up a heavy deficit and nearly lost its accreditation. Last month, the university’s law school failed to win full accreditation from the American Bar Association.

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