- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2003

The University of the District of Columbia’s faculty Senate is challenging the hiring decisions of the school’s top academic officer, whose credentials it says are inferior to those of some job applicants and subordinates.

Faculty members say Wilhelmina M. Reuben-Cooke, UDC’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, should not make decisions about hiring professors who have doctorates because she herself does not have the heretofore required doctoral degree for her $137,000-a-year job.

“We are not going to accept someone who doesn’t have the credentials,” said a faculty member who asked not to be identified. “This is not going away.”

The 34-member UDC Senate, a governing body composed of faculty elected from each academic department, has asked its Academic Policy Committee to investigate a complaint about one of Mrs. Reuben-Cooke’s recent hiring decisions.

“It has been turned over to a standing committee by the faculty Senate,” said Sydney O. Hall, Senate president and a professor of health education at UDC for more than 30 years. “They will be looking into it.”

UDC President William L. Pollard and Mrs. Reuben-Cooke declined comment on the faculty Senate’s action.

A faculty member filed a formal complaint against Mrs. Reuben-Cooke for blocking the hiring of a psychology professor who holds a doctorate, several UDC professors familiar with the complaint said. Mrs. Reuben-Cooke’s concern that the applicant was not qualified blocked the hiring, they said.

UDC spokesman Mike Andrews said no final decision had been made about the psychology professor.

“In the interest of protecting the privacy of involved individuals, we do not discuss the particulars of personnel actions,” Mr. Andrews said.

He said hiring decisions in the Psychology Department usually rest with Rachel Petty, dean of UDC School of Arts and Sciences, who holds a doctorate in psychology.

Mr. Andrews said Mrs. Petty has declined comment.

Meanwhile, the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance is investigating whether Mr. Pollard violated ethics rules in hiring Mrs. Reuben-Cooke, a family friend.

The university’s national advertisement for the provost job listed the minimum education requirement as a doctoral degree or its equivalent and the minimum work experience as an established record as a senior academic administrator.

Mrs. Reuben-Cooke holds a juris doctor degree, or law degree, from the University of Michigan Law School and worked for 18 months as an associate dean for academic affairs at the Syracuse University College of Law. The bulk of her professional experience is as a law professor at Syracuse University.

As UDC’s top academic officer, she makes decisions on academic policy, hiring, promotions and granting of tenure to faculty members at the District’s only public institution of higher education.

Mrs. Reuben-Cooke is married to Edmund D. Cooke Jr., a partner in the D.C. law firm of Winston & Strawn who last year helped Mr. Pollard acquire his $200,000-a-year job as UDC president.

Mr. Pollard has defended the hiring by saying Mrs. Reuben-Cooke meets a Webster’s dictionary definition of an academic “doctor” because she holds a juris doctor degree.

However, a law degree is not considered the equivalent of a doctorate by Black’s Law Dictionary or by several law schools contacted by The Washington Times, including Mrs. Reuben-Cooke’s alma mater.

“The concern remains the same as it was: A J.D. is not equivalent to a Ph.D. It is not a terminal degree. And she really has no leadership experience, other than her position as associate dean, which was a rotating position,” said a member of the faculty Senate.

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