Glendening must quit chancellor search

Unseemly: If Maryland seeks excellence in higher education, it can't look like a political clubhouse.

October 30, 2001

FORMER university professor and now Gov. Parris N. Glendening could be qualified to run the university system of Maryland. On paper, at least, a case could be made. He taught at College Park for years even as his primary vocation was politics. And higher education is said to be even more political than politics. That is so, according to the joke, because the stakes are so low.

In this case, though, the stakes are high. Mr. Glendening 's qualifications are eclipsed by the appearance of a monumental and transparent fix: He has appointed virtually all the members of the system's Board of Regents. If he were a candidate for chancellor, whom would they be likely to support?

A Glendening ally, moreover, helped to engineer a large pay raise for the post of chancellor. The incumbent, Donald Langenberg, will be leaving at about the time Mr. Glendening's term as governor ends.

Does it get any sweeter than that? Or any more brazen? Sweet or sordid, the deal can be seen a long way off.

Potential candidates for the job are saying they might not apply for a job that isn't really open. The governor's inside position helps his potential candidacy, in other words, by diluting the talent pool.

As deplorable as it would be for Maryland to succumb to such political self-dealing, the damage to our university system would be the deepest wound.

With many of Maryland's universities striving to achieve national eminence - some already having attained it - the state is well-positioned to snare one of the best available academic administrators and scholars in the country.

In government and political circles, people say the governor doesn't really want to be chancellor. He wants a national post, they say: head of an environmental group, for example. His widely acclaimed ability to plan ahead makes the chancellor's job merely a fallback. He would settle for Maryland, in other words. The job will pay in the neighborhood of $350,000 and come with a mansion.

But suppose something "better" comes along? Would the governor have damaged the state by chasing good prospects to the sidelines?

If he does not leave the field, his stated wish to be seen as an education governor will begin to look like a mere posture. If the Regents were ultimately to consider his candidacy, they would have to reject it - or appear to be his helpless pawns.

Mr. Glendening should withdraw from this race now before more damage is done.

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