- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Faculty leaders at the University of the District of Columbia are pushing for the removal of the school’s president, citing lost confidence in his leadership and continued resentment over his hiring of a family friend as provost.

“We are firm in our position that this leadership team is wrong for the University and that plans must be quickly put in place to transition to a new leadership team,” UDC Senate President Sydney O. Hall said in a Jan. 20 letter to Charles J. Ogletree Jr., chairman of the UDC board of trustees.

The University Senate, a governing body made up of 34 elected faculty members, in recent months has petitioned the trustees repeatedly to fire UDC President William L. Pollard. A principal grievance has been his hiring of family friend Wilhelmina M. Reuben-Cooke as the school’s vice president of academic affairs and provost despite her apparently lacking the requisite education and experience for the $137,000-a-year position.

Mr. Ogletree said yesterday that the trustees are not reconsidering the tenure of Mr. Pollard or Mrs. Reuben-Cooke. He said, without providing any details, that both are doing excellent work and are responsible for plans to refurbish the campus and recruit students and faculty.

Meanwhile, the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance is expected to issue a report this week detailing whether Mr. Pollard violated ethics laws in hiring Mrs. Reuben-Cooke. The ethics investigation has been under way since July, after reports in The Washington Times about the hire and other irregularities at the District’s only public institution of higher education.

Faculty leaders say they will remain committed to ousting Mr. Pollard, Mrs. Reuben-Cooke and the executive management team assembled by the school’s president.

Since taking the reins at UDC in July 2002, Mr. Pollard has been criticized by students, faculty and the D.C. Council for the proliferation of university executives making $100,000-plus salaries and for the decrepit condition of the campus while the president spent $263,000 renovating his university residence.

The D.C. Inspector General is investigating whether a theft of records in July from the UDC finance office is connected with the improvements made to Mr. Pollard’s home.

The ethics probe and financial investigation only add to the long-standing troubles at the land grant university, which in past years has been plagued by financial mismanagement, poor academic performance and accreditation concerns.

“We feel that Dr. Pollard acted arrogantly toward the selection process and put his interest above the best interest of the university and the residents of the District of Columbia,” Mr. Hall, a longtime UDC education professor, said in the letter.

He wrote that the president’s “reckless and nonchalant attitude” in manipulating the selection process to hire his friend had undermined the reputation of his administration.

Speaking by telephone from his office in Cambridge, Mass., Mr. Ogletree declined to comment on how the ethics report might alter the standing of the president and the provost. “I wouldn’t engage in hypotheticals,” he said. “I’m going to read it and have a comment once I have read it.”

Mr. Ogletree, a Harvard law professor with ties to D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, said he would not discuss faculty grievances in the press.

“You don’t have a clue what is going on at UDC,” Mr. Ogletree said. “There’s a lot of exciting things going on at this university, and it is unfortunate that [The Times’] coverage has missed most of them.”

The senate’s 12-member steering committee met in person with the trustees in November, raising the same concerns stated in the letter and expressing dissatisfaction with the board’s failure to address problems.

“I just don’t trust the board’s leadership,” said a member of the committee who asked not to be identified. “I wish they cared what the faculty thinks, but I don’t think they do. My fear is that if the ethics board doesn’t do anything, the board won’t either.”

Mr. Pollard and Mrs. Reuben-Cooke declined to be interviewed for this report. Inquires to the university administration yesterday were answered by Ernest Jolly, executive vice president.

“We are conducting our business as normal,” Mr. Jolly said. He declined to comment on the administration’s expectations for the ethics report, but he said Mrs. Reuben-Cooke has been “very effective” in her post.

“We and the entire university community remain committed to the improvement of the university and the success of our students,” said Mr. Jolly, who makes $131,080 a year in his newly created post.

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