A once and future candidate?

Glendening: The Board of Regents must declare the governor out of the running for chancellor.

January 31, 2002

TWO MONTHS ago, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said he would not be a candidate for chancellor of the state university system.

His withdrawal inspired hope that Maryland could attract star applicants - men and women who would not apply if they had to compete against a sitting governor. Quite apart from his qualifications, Mr. Glendening's candidacy carried too much political baggage.

Had he been chosen, the regents would have seemed far more interested in rewarding the man who appointed them to the Board of Regents than in getting a leader for Maryland's universities.

But the board needs to say emphatically now that it won't consider the governor under any circumstances.

We take Mr. Glendening at his word - though he should have known the impact of his dalliance. Declining to say for some time that he was interested in the job, he fairly trumpeted his interest in an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, of all places, convincing potential applicants across the nation to reconsider.

And now, in the hyper-political world of higher education, doubt remains about how completely he has withdrawn.

"The fear is, he's not out of it," said James L. Fisher, former president of Towson University and a consultant who works with academic administrators looking for new jobs. The governor may have withdrawn, but would he be open to a draft?

Rumors such as this one may never die. So perhaps the damage has been done. If so, it could be severe. Maryland's higher education community believes it deserves more respect. Many campuses and many programs are ranked among the nation's best, but the overall system lags.

Politics in Maryland has not helped over the years. William E. Kirwan, the well-regarded University of Maryland president, left the College Park post to become president of Ohio State University. Dr. Kirwan had his own frustrations, among which were his concern that higher education here was not accorded the high level of importance it received in other states.

The respect gap will widen if a term-limited governor steps out of the State House and into the chancellor's mansion.

Board of Regents Chairman Nathan Chapman says some good resumes have been received. The regents will have to decide whether they are good enough. If not, the board should consider appointing an interim chancellor - not Mr. Glendening - to give itself time to find the right person.

In the short term, the regents should thank the governor for his contributions to higher education and wish him well in whatever work he chooses - outside the Maryland system.

The door needs to be closed for this governor so it will be open for the academic stars Maryland deserves.

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