Bowie gives president no-confidence vote 50-35 faculty poll is only advisory

March 16, 1996|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

Faculty members at Bowie State University have voted no confidence in their president, Nathanael Pollard Jr., after a contentious meeting in which he was accused of running roughshod over professors and administrators in his efforts to reform the school.

The vote Wednesday was merely advisory, because the University of Maryland System chancellor and board of regents are Dr. Pollard's bosses.

Such a move generally signals a breakdown in the ability of an academic leader to guide his or her campus. But a Bowie State spokeswoman said the vote would not deter the president from his agenda of making the school a center for innovation.

"This president is dedicated to change. Some people accept change as pain. Some people accept pain as progress," said Billyejo Schley, Bowie State spokeswoman.

"He's determined to inject technology in every phase of that campus," she said.

Dr. Pollard, his critics said in interviews, had frozen faculty members out of many decisions, including the appointments of professors and creation of academic initiatives.

He also forced out many veteran administrators and brought a cohort of people to the campus giving them bigger raises than their colleagues, Dr. Pollard's antagonists said.

John M. Organ, the school's director of physical education who is the college administration's most relentless gadfly, said Dr. Pollard operated with a "dictatorial" style.

The president's defenders portrayed a different campus, one where many professors resent efforts to change and where Dr. Pollard and his two predecessors faced similar no-confidence votes.

"These concerns have surfaced against every provost and every president since I've been here," said Nagi Wakim, interim chairman of the computer science program, who has taught at Bowie for seven years. "You start wondering, is it the person on top, or is it the climate of the institution?"

Dr. Pollard did not return phone calls.

Formerly the provost of Virginia State University in Petersburg, Dr. Pollard became interim president of Bowie State in July 1993. In April, he was inaugurated as the school's president.

He has consistently promoted a vision of Bowie as a regional university with a new emphasis on high-tech training a break from the historically black school's heritage as a teachers college.

The university's enrollment has climbed from fewer than 2,900 students in fall 1988 to more than 5,000 today while the physical plant has not grown appreciably. A new $30 million classroom building was approved this week by the General Assembly, Bowie's spokeswoman said.

At the Wednesday meeting, more than 50 faculty members voted no confidence in Dr. Pollard. Approximately 35 voted against the measure. A proposal to call for his resignation failed by a few votes. Bowie has about 180 full- and part-time faculty members.

Several professors opposed to Dr. Pollard said his vision for change was the only one allowed on the campus.

"He is a man so obsessed with his own intellectual righteousness that he cannot appreciate others' viewpoints," said Donald Morgan, an associate professor of sociology.

As an example, Dr. Morgan offered the creation of a center on multiculturalism, for which social scientists were not consulted.

But Dr. Pollard's supporters say he has brought new life to the campus, pointing to advances like a $7.8 million, five-year award from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to promote the training of black scientists and engineers. It was the school's largest grant in its history.

Pub Date: 3/16/96

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