Bowie State president gets mixed reviews in UM regents inquiry Panel rejects charges that he's dictatorial, but cites campus mistrust

August 07, 1996|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

Bowie State University's president, under assault by faculty members hoping to force his departure, has received a mixed endorsement from an inquiry commissioned by the University of Maryland Board of Regents.

The report, released last week, exonerates Nathanael Pollard, Bowie's president, of running the campus in a dictatorial manner, showing favoritism in hiring and misusing campus funds. The report's authors write that the allegations, which led to a no-confidence vote by faculty in March, were based in part on incomplete or faulty information.

But the report did cite an "abysmal" climate of mistrust on the campus in which professors and administrators did not communicate well, if at all.

And university system officials acknowledged that the campus will continue to founder without significant change.

Pollard's immediate boss, UM System Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg, said a "dysfunctional" atmosphere prevailed on campus and that a small group of faculty members -- fewer than 10 -- was intent on sabotaging any chief aspiring to reform the historically black university. The campus has about 3,200 undergraduates and 2,200 graduate students.

Pollard said he accepted the inquiry's findings and said he would seek to convince faculty members that he wanted their perspective in running campus affairs.

"I have a strong support in the faculty. I have always had it, even when it appeared that I didn't," Pollard said. "We have a component of our faculty that has felt that they were not involved in the governance. It is my responsibility this year to give a compelling argument that I want them involved and to involve them."

But one of Pollard's harshest detractors assailed the report yesterday, saying it too neatly fit Langenberg's preconceived support for Pollard. "We have an administrator who is someone who does not talk but he comes in and tries to railroad things through," said John M. Organ, professor and director of physical education.

In a March meeting, members of the faculty voted roughly 50-35 to show "no confidence" in Pollard. As the president reports to the chancellor and the regents, the vote had no binding authority. But it is taken to signal a severe breakdown in campus collegiality.

A group of faculty critics led by Organ and Henry Raymond, a professor of behavior sciences and human services, formally leveled charges against Pollard in a May meeting with Langenberg and Lance W. Billingsley, chairman of the university board of regents. Billingsley commissioned an inquiry into the allegations, which included mismanagement of funds; offering unadvertised positions to friends; and favoring cronies in pay and promotion.

In June, the panel met on campus for two days and received testimony from professors and administrators. The inquiry committee was led by James E. Walker, president of Middle Tennessee State University.

The panel also included regents Margaret Alton and Constance M. Unseld; Maitland Dade, the university system's director of legislative affairs; Helen Giles-Gee, the system's associate vice chancellor for academic affairs; William P. Hytche, president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Diane Lee, an associate professor of education at the University of Maryland Baltimore County; George L. Marx, the system's vice chancellor for academic affairs; and Michael O'Pecko, a professor of German at Towson State University.

Pollard, who first arrived at Bowie in 1993, was hired in part to lead the campus to become a regional haven for technological research and instruction. Some alumni and professors have opposed the move as untrue to the institution's tradition as a small liberal arts school for blacks.

Langenberg said Pollard needs to alter his style to accomplish his goals. "Nate is a young man in a hurry," Langenberg said of the 56-year-old Pollard. "He's taken on a very large job. Bowie State University is in a major transformation and it has enormous opportunities.

"That leads him sometimes to be very impatient," Langenberg said. "He is sometimes much more interested in getting the job done than he is in stroking the tender egos of some of the people that he needs to help him get the job done."

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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