A top administrator at the University of Maryland, College Park has resigned but will continue to receive a vice president's salary for the next nine months as he moves into a faculty position, officials said this week.
J. Dennis O'Connor drew a $225,000 salary as the university's vice president for research and dean of graduate studies. He will be paid at the same rate for nine months -- a total of $168,750 -- as a distinguished biology professor, officials said.
That will make O'Connor the third-highest-paid faculty member in the life sciences college, behind the dean and a department chair.
Last spring, Vice President and Chief Information Officer Donald R. Riley resigned after a poor performance evaluation but remained with the university as a business professor and special assistant to the president at his administrative salary of $229,000.
Campus unions and others, noting budget concerns and rising tuition, have questioned the practice of allowing former administrators to retain their previous salaries.
University spokeswoman Cassandra Robinson said yesterday that O'Connor had an "impeccable record" as a biology professor earlier in his career and that his new contract was "typical practice in the way tenured faculty move within the university."
He is leaving his vice president's position after less than two years. O'Connor, a former top official at the University of Pittsburgh, often sparred with College Park President C.D. "Dan" Mote Jr., the campus newspaper, The Diamondback, has reported.
O'Connor declined to comment through his secretary.
M Square project
As vice president for research, he was responsible for the management of more than $300 million in state, federal and private funds and was the top official involved with negotiations for the university's planned $500 million research park, M Square. He had previously served as undersecretary of science for the Smithsonian Institution and was provost at the University of North Carolina.
He resigned as chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh in 1995 amid fund-raising problems, an enrollment drop and accusations that he spent lavishly on his inauguration and office.
Taking O'Connor's place as vice president for research on an interim basis will be Jacques Gansler, the acting dean of the university's public affairs school.
Mote's chief of staff, Anne Wylie, will assume O'Connor's post as dean of graduate studies, also on an interim basis.