New chair of University System of Maryland's board starts with an apology
- The new head of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents has apologized to the family of University of Maryland (UMD) football player Jordan McNair following his death from exertion-related heat stroke sustained during a football practice, The Baltimore Sun reported. The board had been widely accused of botching personnel decisions in the wake of investigations that revealed ongoing dysfunction in the athletic department before the 19-year-old student's death.
- Linda Gooden replaces James Brady, who resigned last week after the board received heavy blowback for announcing head football coach DJ Durkin would remain in his position and UMD President Wallace Loh would retire in June. An investigation found both leaders partly responsible for the problems in the university's athletic department. Spurred by the criticism from campus groups, Loh fired Durkin the next day.
- In a statement through the University System, Gooden said the board had "lost sight of its responsibility to the university system" and that their personnel recommendations were "wrong." Under her leadership, the board will oversee reforms in the athletic department.
The fallout over McNair's death has spurred protests on campus, exposed abusive conduct in the athletic department and resulted in a review of the university's accreditation. Now, the board and the university face an uphill battle to restore their reputations.
The issue is another high-profile example of university officials being held accountable for their handling of controversial issues on campus. Other highly publicized college scandals have resulted in the resignations of top leaders, multi-million dollar fines and even probation periods from accreditors.
College presidents are spending less time in their roles than before, and a "wave of departures" is expected in the coming years, according to a Deloitte analysis. The evolving role requires different thinking, new types of leaders and an ability to manage the concerns of more stakeholders with increasingly strong opinions.
In Maryland's case, some accused the board of regents of overstepping its authority, highlighting the tension that can exist between university presidents and their governing boards.
At Louisiana State University, for example, the state board of regents has battled with President F. King Alexander over his changes to admission criteria without their approval. In another case, donors accused the Nevada Board of Regents of micromanaging University of Nevada Las Vegas President Len Jessup and having a petty vendetta against him; Jessup has since stepped down and is now the president of Claremont Graduate University. And Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn agreed to a voluntary separation from the school in June after the board complained about his plans for the allocation of state funds.