- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

The president of the University of the District of Columbia yesterday said the school has spent more than $13 million over the past two years to fix a campus in disrepair.

“Surely, these $13 million worth of improvements will make us feel better about our campus,” UDC President William L. Pollard told the D.C. Council’s Education Committee at the school’s annual oversight hearing.

Since taking the reins in July 2002 at the District’s only public institution of higher education, 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 spending $263,000 to renovate his university residence while the campus deteriorated.

Responding to reports in The Washington Times about the school’s decrepit facilities, D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, toured the campus in August and logged dozens of maintenance problems, including crumbling concrete stairs, inoperable elevators and escalators, broken doors, and stained and torn carpet in the business school.

Many of these items showed up on Mr. Pollard’s $13 million repair bill, including $2.9 million to install a new elevator and a new escalator and $2.28 million to replace the exterior doors on campus buildings. However, these jobs aren’t scheduled for completion until later this year.

Mr. Pollard said the expenses, which he hoped would be reimbursed in the school’s next capital budget, included more than $3 million to renovate bathrooms and $1.5 million to build a new library for the university’s David A. Clarke School of Law.

Other repair costs were $918,036 to renovate an emergency tank and emergency generator, $893,907 for a new math classroom, $788,871 for the heating system, $373,000 for a pool heater, $360,277 for an interactive classroom and $335,932 to replace the carpet in the business school.

The list of recent capital expenditures included $511,000 for a master plan for campus redevelopment that is scheduled for completion in April.

“We continue to be very concerned about the university’s physical environment,” said Mr. Pollard. He also asked the committee for more funding to build a student union and for more autonomy from the city in making spending decisions.

The deterioration of UDC’s buildings added to the long-standing troubles of the land-grant university, which in past years has been beset by financial mismanagement, poor academic performance and accreditation concerns.

Still, the president told the committee that he has made much progress addressing concerns about the condition of the campus, upcoming accreditation requirements and the school’s dwindling enrollment.

Among the accomplishments Mr. Pollard cited was the creation of an Athletic Compliance Committee to address compliance with National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, an apparent reaction to the NCAA recently opening an investigation of UDC’s athletic program.

D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat and chairman of the Education Committee, commended the effort to overcome troubles at the school. “Its ability has now taken hold,” he said.

The oversight hearing came three days after investigators for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics recommended dismissing the ethics case against Mr. Pollard, who was scrutinized for hiring a friend as the school’s provost.

The seven-month investigation concluded that Mr. Pollard had broad discretion in selecting the school’s executive officers and that his choice of family friend Wilhelmina M. Rueben-Cooke for provost was adequately screened by an independent selection committee.

However, faculty leaders remain opposed to Mrs. Rueben-Cooke, who they say lacks the requisite doctoral degree and administrative experience necessary for her job as the school’s top academic officer.

The 34-member UDC Senate, a governing body of elected faulty members, repeatedly has petitioned the board of trustees to remove Mr. Pollard and his entire management team, citing Mrs. Rueben-Cooke’s hiring as a chief grievance. The trustees, however, continue to support Mr. Pollard.

“We believe we are making progress and this progress will continue to be felt by anybody who comes into contact with the university,” Peter D. Rosenstein, vice chairman of the trustees, said yesterday in testimony before the committee.

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