- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2003

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said the University of the District of Columbia doesn’t have any problems — including management missteps by President William J. Pollard — that can’t be solved by the people he has appointed to the school’s board of trustees.

The Washington Times reported last week that Mr. Pollard 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. Reuben-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.

“I am comfortable that under the leadership of Chairman Charles Ogletree and the other members of the board of trustees I appointed that UDC is in good hands and that its business will be taken care of in a professional manner,” Mr. Williams said.

D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, agrees that the front-line responsibility lies with the board but says he plans to meet with its members to ensure the situation is settled amicably.

“We have to make sure the image and reputation of the university is protected after working through so many problems to bring it back,” Mr. Chavous said.

The Times, citing Mrs. Reuben-Cooke’s resume, reported Thursday that she lacked the minimum education and work experience required for the job, as advertised in national education journals by the school’s search committee.

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 $137,000-a-year job tomorrow.

Mr. Pollard bypassed the board of trustees and personally pushed her resume through the search committee, said university officials familiar with the matter.

When questioned about cronyism by The Times, Mr. Pollard responded, “Would it be preferable that I select someone else’s crony?”

Mr. Williams said he did not wish to respond specifically to that statement but that he expected the board to deal with “any problems that arise,” between Mr. Pollard and the faculty.

“We’ve all committed to support Mr. Pollard, but he has to understand the need to work with long-standing employees and to be sensitive to the concerns of people over there in terms of these hirings,” said Mr. Chavous, who as chairman of the committee on education is responsible for conducting council oversight of UDC.

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

Mrs. Reuben-Cooke, a tenured law professor at Syracuse University since 1992, was not among the seven candidates originally recommended by the search committee.

She holds a juris doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School. It is equivalent to a master’s degree, not a doctorate.

In her only experience as an administrator, she served 18 months in the early 1990s as associate dean for academic affairs at the 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 was 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.

Mrs. Reuben-Cooke’s hiring is Mr. Pollard’s second managerial decision that has drawn scrutiny in recent months.

Council members Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, and Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, told The Times last week that they had been looking into the UDC president’s decisions since The Times reported last month that he 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 for administrative staffers and the rejected 1 percent raise offered to the faculty union.

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 hired by Mr. Pollard, many of whom already were earning more than $100,000 a year.

Mr. Williams said he would prefer to see the university’s teachers rewarded before administrators receive any substantial raises.

Mr. Pollard and Mr. Ogletree said Mrs. Reuben-Cooke was hired independent of the trustees, despite university accreditation standards requiring 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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