Student regent's selection rankles

UM board, governor accused of ignoring recommendations

March 03, 2001|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

The annual appointment of the student member of the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents is usually a feel-good moment, a well-earned feather in the cap of a campus leader.

This year, it's a mess.

Saleem Rasheed, a 21-year-old junior at Bowie State University, got the job, a gubernatorial appointment. That's not surprising, because Rasheed comes out of the right mold -- he is president of the University System Student Council.

The problem is he didn't get it through the normal process.

That has led members of the system's student council -- which nominates the student regent -- to contend that Rasheed double-crossed that body and to accuse the regents of undermining the council's role in the shared governance of the system.

"If I had known that they were just going to ignore our recommendation, I wouldn't have gone to all that trouble," said Tony Savia, the council member from the University of Maryland, University College.

But Rasheed and Board of Regents Chairman Nathan Chapman say that although some communication problems have occurred, nothing is seriously amiss.

"I am committed to the process that we have in place," Chapman said. "We look forward to working with the students in the future."

In December, the system's student council -- which has two members from each of the 11 campuses -- met to consider those who had expressed interest in becoming a full voting member of the Board of Regents for a year.

The current student member, Kevin Oxendine, is a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park and decided to try for another term. Although this had never happened before, there are no rules against serving two terms.

After the council -- including Rasheed, who was not a candidate at the time -- interviewed the applicants, Oxendine garnered so many more votes than anyone else the council decided to submit only his name.

"I had hoped to continue to serve," said Oxendine. "There were a lot of things I hoped still to accomplish. I was overwhelmed by the generous support so many people gave to me."

The student regent statute calls for the council to submit "up to three names." This is thought to be the first time the council has sent in only one name.

Chapman said the submission of only one name essentially handcuffed Gov. Parris N. Glendening. So Chapman looked for more candidates.

When the student council learned of the problem, it forwarded the names of its second and third choices. By this time, Rasheed had become a candidate. He said the chancellor's office asked him to throw his hat in the ring.

"It was a difficult decision," Rasheed said. "After consulting with mentors in and out of the system, I made the personal choice to enter at that point."

Members of the council say that they didn't know Rasheed -- who was supposed to be representing their views -- was now in the running.

"I was surprised that he accepted the nomination," said Jared S. Calish, who represents the University of Maryland, Baltimore on the council.

"He was part of the disenfranchising [of] the council," said Jeremy Bates, a council member from UMCP. "That is inexcusable."

Chapman said that when the council's second and third choices did not show up for a January interview with the regents, he had no choice but to forward the two names -- Oxendine and Rasheed -- to Glendening.

Chapman made it clear that he thinks the governor made the right decision in not keeping Oxendine for a second year.

"Each campus should have an opportunity to have a student serve on the Board of Regents," he said.

Michelle Byrnie, a spokeswoman for Glendening, agreed, saying that the governor was not aware of the controversy.

But some regents disagree. Joseph D. Tydings said Oxendine should have had another year.

"I think it is unfortunate that the most outstanding student regent in 30 years, who was unanimously selected by his peers throughout the entire system, was not renamed," Tydings said. "But the governor makes the nomination."

Some members of the student council have threatened to resign, but others say they are ready to work with Rasheed.

"Although the council was displeased with some of his decisions, we look forward to working with him for the benefit of students," Bates said.

Said Rasheed: "I understand some individuals feel very strongly about this, but we are going to move on because there is too much work to be done."

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