Settlement offer to college head sparks protests

November 22, 1990|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Widespread opposition to a $1 million settlement offered to American University's former president to sever his ties to the school has prompted the trustees to schedule a special meeting next month to discuss the offer.

The offer to Richard Berendzen was made earlier this month.

Mr. Berendzen, a physicist and tenured faculty member, resigned in April after 10 years as president, admitting he had made obscene calls to a woman who runs a child-care service. The woman said he discussed fantasies of sexual relations with children. Mr. Berendzen has not been on campus since April but has continued to draw his $140,000 annual salary as president.

Word of the board's $1 million offer filtered out earlier this month, outraging students and faculty at the private institution. Students held protest rallies, and some faculty members and students vowed to force the board to rescind the offer. The money would come out of the university's $150 million budget for the current year.

The press release on Tuesday announcing the board meeting stated that "at the request of at least seven of its members," the 48-member board would hold a special meeting "to discuss the proposed settlement" and would issue a statement after the meeting.

Numerous campus groups representing students as well as faculty requested meetings with the board and university officials. The university's provost, Milton Greenberg, and the chairman of the trustees, Edward R. Carr, met with student leaders on Friday and with a group of faculty members on Monday.

In a letter to Mr. Carr, the Graduate Student Council said it found it "astonishing" that the university "would consider stripping our institution of such an amount of money to remunerate a single individual" when it had difficulty paying for such basics as student financial aid.

A letter to Mr. Berendzen, signed by 84 faculty members, said that if he still wanted to teach, he should notify the appropriate committee. But if he wished to "move in another direction," the letter suggested that he "sever any remaining employment relationship with the university without insisting on further compensation" and allow the university "to continue down the bright road you were so instrumental in paving."

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