Pact with AU puts Berendzen on faculty in '92 bTC

December 04, 1990|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Former American University President Richard Berendzen, who resigned last April after he was caught making obscene phone calls from his office, signed an agreement with the university last weekend to return to the campus in the spring of 1992 as a full-time professor in the physics department, university officials confirmed yesterday.

The agreement follows weeks of protest and fury among students, faculty and administrators at the private university, aimed at a reported $1 million buyout package offered to Mr. Berendzen by the Board of Trustees.

Last week, Mr. Berendzen renewed a previously rejected proposal to return to the university to teach, as an alternative to the costly buyout of the faculty tenure rights he still retains.

"When Dr. Berendzen issued his announcement that he was willing to forgo the buyout, we thought this was a good way to resolve the issue," said AU's provost and acting president, Milton Greenberg.

Mr. Berendzen's lawyer, Richard D. Marks, said, "This has been something [Mr. Berendzen] has sought all along." Mr. Berendzen declined to comment.

According to the new contract, signed after weekend meetings between Mr. Berendzen, faculty leaders and Mr. Greenberg, Mr. Berendzen will be put on administrative leave with pay at his new faculty salary, retroactive to September 1990 and continuing until his return for the spring semester 1992. An administrative official said the salary for a senior faculty member of the physics department was roughly $70,000.

The university also is honoring Mr. Berendzen's presidential contract, which awards him roughly $380,000 in severance pay, the equivalent of about two years' presidential salary.

In May, Mr. Berendzen pleaded guilty to two charges of making obscene phone calls and was sentenced to two 30-day jail terms, suspended on the condition he remain in outpatient treatment for one year. He now is receiving treatment at the Sexual Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he spent 3 1/2 weeks last spring as a patient.

He is being sued for $4 million by Susan Allen, a Northern Virginia woman who runs a day-care service, to whom Mr. Berendzen made repeated calls in March and April in which he described fantasized sexual relations with, and abuse of, children.

The news of Mr. Berendzen's return sparked mixed reactions among faculty and students at the university yesterday, with most of the campus glad at least that the million-dollar buyout offer would likely be rescinded when the board meets Thursday.

"I wouldn't say I'm happy about it, but I'm satisfied," said Valerie Morris, faculty senate chairwoman. "It's an equitable arrangement."

Although law student Susan Bozorth said last week she hoped the former president "never shows his face here again," sophomore Judy Guszkowski said yesterday she thought accepting him back was "very noble" of the university.

After Mr. Berendzen stated his desire to return to the university last week, Ms. Allen, to whom he placed the obscene calls, said, "Any idea of having him back is criminal."

Acting President Greenberg said any damage to the university's reputation over Mr. Berendzen's return "remains to be seen."

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