- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

The president of the University of the District of Columbia is contending for the top job at Louisiana’s Grambling State University, less than two years after coming to the District to start the $200,000-a-year job.

D.C. Council members said yesterday that they were disappointed that UDC President William L. Pollard would use the District’s only public university as a career stepping stone so quickly.

“Pollard shouldn’t be looking for another job so soon,” said D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat. “The university needs stability.”

However, a university spokesman denied that Mr. Pollard was looking for a new job.

“He’s not going after a job,” said spokesman Michael Andrews. “He’s agreed to be considered.”

Mr. Pollard was hired in July 2002 with expectations that he would turn around a university beset by financial mismanagement, poor academic performance and accreditation problems.

However, his first year was marred by criticism from students, faculty and D.C. Council members who said he was hiring too many administration executives making $100,000-plus salaries, and making other spending decisions that seemed to shortchange the students.

In the summer, Mr. Fenty questioned Mr. Pollard spending $263,000 to renovate his run-down university residence while campus buildings fell into disrepair.

Still, Mr. Fenty wants Mr. Pollard to stay, but says he does not understand the distinction between looking for a new job and agreeing to entertain one.

“If you don’t want the job, why be in the search?” he asked. “Even if your name is just in the hunt, it is a step toward undermining stability.”

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said through a spokesman that he also was concerned about Mr. Pollard leaving.

“It is an honor to be considered for that position, but we are hoping that he will stay where he is,” said Tony Bullock, the spokesman.

Mr. Pollard was among nine finalists for the post announced last week. He and seven other contenders have verified that they are candidates for the job, said administrators at Grambling, which has about 4,600 students. UDC has about 5,000.

The search committee is scheduling interviews with finalists March 15 and 16, according to the school’s Web site.

D.C. Council member Harold P. Brazil thinks it is too early to speculate about Mr. Pollard’s motives, but that his resignation would leave the city “in the lurch.”

Mr. Brazil, at-large Democrat, twice called for Mr. Pollard’s resignation last year after he hired family friend Wilhelmina M. Reuben-Cooke as provost and vice president of academic affairs. Mrs. Reuben-Cooke makes $137,000 a year as provost, despite apparently lacking the requisite education and experience for such a job.

Though the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics last month cleared Mr. Pollard of breaking the rules in hiring Mrs. Reuben-Cooke, faculty leaders said they resented her hiring, and have lost confidence in the president’s leadership.

“The question becomes: Is he doing a good job?” Mr. Brazil said yesterday. “I’m not ready to answer that question.”

Mr. Andrews said Mr. Pollard, who served as dean of Grambling’s School of Social Work from 1984 to 1989, gave no indication that he wanted to leave the District. He said Mr. Pollard views Grambling’s interest in him as “an honor because it is a prestigious university.”

He also hinted that Mr. Pollard might take the job.

“There is a chance, sure, but then there is a chance that he won’t,” Mr. Andrews said.

Grambling’s new president will make as much as $250,000 a year plus other financial incentives and benefits, said James L. Fisher, a consultant to the school’s search committee.

Mr. Fisher said he recommended Mr. Pollard and personally helped recruit him as a candidate. He also said Mr. Pollard was “somewhat reluctant” to join the search.

“I pressed him hard,” Mr. Fisher said.

To retain a new president at Grambling, a historically black university that has had troubles with financial mismanagement for a decade, Mr. Fisher said the employment contract is likely to include a “golden handcuff” clause, promising a bonus payment after about five years on the job.

Mr. Fisher said the president of the University of Louisiana system also personally urged Mr. Pollard to become a candidate.

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