University of Maryland Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg is preparing sweeping changes for the 11-campus system, changes that include economic and academic reforms as well as establishment of family ties between the often competing universities.
Langenberg is to unveil the plan at his June 26 inauguration at the Lyric Theater in Baltimore. But, during an interview last week in his office in Adelphi in Prince George's County, the chancellor outlined his vision for the 3-year-old system.
At the center of the plan is a desire to form a strong common, cooperative bond among the diverse UM institutions scattered throughout the state.
To make this happen, Langenberg plans to order a series of "cultural" changes in the system, which he describes as changing the way the universities do business.
Specifically, Langenberg says, he wants to make institutions smaller and more efficient and adopt Total Quality Management, a strategy that suggests all employees turn out work of the quality they would like to receive.
The plan also would reshuffle priorities at each campus and form academic collaborations between the UM institutions to offer diversity and convenience to students, most of whom are older and attend classes part time.
Langenberg also is poised to order that new programs that can cause social and political change be substituted for stale academic offerings. The chancellor said this will allow UM to mesh its resources with local businesses and communities to direct change.
The plan is Langenberg's first attempt to spark change in the UM system and is so wide ranging that he expects implementation to occupy his entire tenure.
"It's important to have an institutional identity, character, vision, spirit and style," Langenberg said. "This will age well. It is not tied to specific current issues or to academic or political issues of the day. It's intended to be durable."
Langenberg said his plan arose from discussions with 11 academic administrators who form the Pew Higher Education Research Forum, a roundtable group that meets four times a year in Philadelphia.
The topics of the past two years include the economy, changing enrollment patterns on campuses, cuts in federal funding and the slipping U.S. position in world technology.
Some of those problems were magnified in Maryland this past year as a budget crisis caused a detour in the General Assembly's 1988 reorganization of higher education. The legislative plan, which created the large, comprehensive UM system, also promised increased funding over the years. The aim, according to the plan's authors, was to make UM the Stanford University of the East.
But reality has hit hard. The budget shortfall greeted Langenberg two months after he started as chancellor last July.
The fiscal panic set off system budget cuts totaling $65 million, while Langenberg endured a simmering feud with Gov. William Donald Schaefer over state funding.
In response to the budget cuts, the chancellor said, he saw a need to sanction and plan layoffs, cuts and mergers of some academic programs -- the starting point of his plan.
After his inauguration, Langenberg said, he expects an easier road. He thinks his second year will give him a chance to do what he does best: form a consensus and build bridges with lawmakers so system funding may be resumed when state tax revenues become more stable.
Besides being the system's diplomat, Langenberg, with his deputies, will be busy promoting the new vision. He said it may take 10 years to make the vision a reality.
Langenberg is designing his plan with the assistance of William Kinnard, the former acting president of UM at Baltimore, who resigned the acting post last December when he was not offered the job permanently.
In a small office at Central Administration, Kinnard, now associate chancellor, is working on a "philosophy" for the UM System's future based on a similar plan for change at the University of Michigan.
"We've got to change the culture," said Kinnard, who is paid $144,000 a year. "We've got to think of the quality of the programs, but also start thinking about it in the context of cost containment."
Langenberg has floated his strategy among the UM presidents, some faculty members and even a bond-rating agency in New York that is rating a state bond sale to fund new buildings.
The chancellor also introduced his vision to the UM Board of Regents during a private retreat last month.
"We are very excited and pleased about the chancellor's vision," said Regents Chairman George McGowan. "It sets the tone for where we're heading in the future and is a simple, elegant posture. It states some basic principles that the board felt strongly about.
"It is important that institutions realize that they can gain a lot from each other with a work together atmosphere instead of a let's grab everything we can for ourselves attitude," McGowan said. "We expected that there would be some bumps in the road. It just takes time."
Langenberg predicted his plan will be optimistically received.
"It sounds easy only because it can be stated briefly," said Langenberg, who along with his wife, Pat, an associate professor of biostatistics at UMAB, have moved into Hidden Waters, a university-owned mansion in Pikesville.
"These things require cultural changes. They require that 18,000 people come to take it for granted that this system is a family of distinctive but complementary institutions that work together."