Public college presidents reveal complaints about university system Not all schools stay within rules, they claim

October 21, 1998|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

The task force charged with studying the way Maryland public colleges have been governed for the past 10 years heard its first round of testimony yesterday from college presidents whose main complaint about the system was that not everybody stays within its rules.

"What's frustrating is when everything becomes a matter of politics," Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said at the hearing in Annapolis. "The system works when everyone knows what the rules of the game are and lives by those rules."

The ire of the presidents was directed at a $7 million appropriation handed out by the legislature this year to the University of Maryland, College Park.

The grant did not come through the University System of Maryland, which dispenses funding to 11 of the state colleges and universities -- all except St. Mary's College and Morgan State University -- according to agreed-upon formulas.

"The system should not permit end runs," said H. Mebane Turner of the University of Baltimore. "We are all in this together."

The task force, chaired by Adm. Charles R. Larsen, who was superintendent of the Naval Academy until his retirement in June, was created this year by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. It is to issue a report by the end of the year for possible action by the state legislature in its next session.

Many observers suspect that the reason for the task force is Miller's desire to take the University of Maryland, College Park -- which is in his Prince George's County district -- out of the university system.

"I would not be pleased if the university system broke up in any way," said William Merwin, president of Salisbury State University. "But if College Park secedes, I might want to reconsider that."

Merwin also said that the system should re-emphasize undergraduate education in its funding formulas now that the children of the baby boomers are swelling the population of undergraduates.

David Ramsey, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, an exclusively graduate institution, said graduate students need more funding.

The task force should hear more stringent criticisms of the structure today from C. D. "Dan" Mote Jr., who became president of the University of Maryland, College Park last month. He told his faculty senate last week that his campus needs the ability to lobby the governor directly and greater freedom from the governing bureaucracy.

Hoke Smith, longtime president of Towson University, is expected to complain about the funding for his institution under the current structure.

Pub Date: 10/21/98

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