- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

A D.C. Council member yesterday renewed his call for the resignation of the University of the District of Columbia’s new provost while faculty members expressed outrage over recent actions by top UDC leaders.

Council member Harold P. Brazil said the UDC Board of Trustees made the right move last week in blocking a $10,000 signing bonus for Wilhelmina M. Reuben-Cooke, the school’s provost and vice president of academic affairs.

“It is a good resolution or, at least, a partial resolution,” said Mr. Brazil, at-large Democrat. “I’m not sure the bonus ever influenced my decision [to call for her resignation]. There were certain prerequisites for the job, and she doesn’t have them.”

Meanwhile, faculty members who had criticized UDC President William L. Pollard for hiring Mrs. Reuben-Cooke, a family friend, yesterday chided Board of Trustees Chairman Charles Ogletree Jr. for dismissing the effect of Mr. Pollard’s actions.

“The statements from Mr. Ogletree and his apparent defense of these actions by Mr. Pollard are exceedingly disturbing to the faculty,” said a longtime university professor who asked not to be identified.

“This kind of behavior is just reckless,” the professor said. “They are not, in our opinion, meeting their responsibility as trustees.”

Mr. Ogletree, who has repeatedly expressed support for Mr. Pollard, said Friday on the “D.C. Politics Hour” on WAMU-FM that the UDC president could not give a signing bonus to Mrs. Reuben-Cooke. He told The Washington Times on Sunday that the bonus was never authorized, contradicting university officials who last week told The Times that the $10,000 bonus was part of the approved compensation package.

Susan D. Saunders, the university’s director of government affairs, told The Times last week that university officials authorized the bonus after the City Administrator’s Office, the D.C. Office of Personnel and the university’s Human Resources Department had reviewed the deal.

“It is part of our normal course of business,” Mrs. Saunders said.

Yesterday, Page Crossland, executive assistant to D.C. Council member David A. Catania, said Mrs. Saunders verified the $10,000 signing bonus last week and provided the council details about how the bonus had been reviewed and approved by UDC officials. “It was confirmed,” Miss Crossland said of the bonus.

The Rev. Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, said the revocation of the signing bonus was “a step in the right direction,” but Mrs. Reuben-Cooke’s hiring still merits investigation.

“It doesn’t clear up the matter of making sure there was no preferential treatment in this hire,” said Mr. Lynch, whose group on Friday asked the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance to investigate the matter.

Mr. Brazil first called for Mrs. Reuben-Cooke to resign after The Times reported this month that Mr. Pollard had hired Mrs. Reuben-Cooke to fill the school’s No. 3 job even though she lacks the requisite experience and education for the $137,000-a-year administrative position.

Mrs. Reuben-Cooke, who was a tenured law professor at Syracuse University, is married to Edmund Cooke, a District-based lawyer who helped Mr. Pollard secure his $200,000-a-year job at the university a year ago.

As provost and vice president of academic affairs, she is responsible for overseeing academic programs, creating academic policy, preparing academic budgets and leading the faculty.

Mr. Pollard, who was attending the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Summer Council of Presidents in Newport, R.I., was not available for comment yesterday.

Mrs. Reuben-Cooke, who started her new job Wednesday, did not return calls to her university office yesterday. She has not returned numerous telephone messages previously left at her office and at her home in Fairfax Station, where she has lived while teaching at Syracuse.

The university is the only public institution of higher education in the District. It was chartered in 1974 as an urban land-grant university with an open-admissions policy. As of last year, the university had an enrollment of 5,300 students and a staff of 225 teachers, for a nearly 24-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

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