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Aldridge steps down as UMUC president

WASHINGTON — One month after she was placed on leave for reasons that have yet to be disclosed, Susan Aldridge announced Thursday that she’s resigning as president of the University of Maryland University College.

Susan Aldridge

Students, faculty and staff were informed of the resignation in an email from University System of Maryland Chancellor William Kirwan.

“Given all that we have accomplished over the past years, I think this is a good time to step down,” Aldridge said in a statement that offered no further explanation of the reasons for her departure.

Aldridge’s resignation takes effect March 31, but she will remain on administrative leave through Aug. 31. Javier Miyares will continue serving as acting president.

In a telephone interview, Kirwan declined to elaborate on why Aldridge stepped down. By staying on through August, Aldridge will be able to work on the launch of the university’s new online education platform and consult on the rebidding of some of its overseas military contracts, Kirwan said.

Headquartered in Adelphi, UMUC is the nation’s largest public university, with more than 90,000 students. More than half are military service members, veterans and their families, many of whom live overseas and take classes online. The university also offers face-to-face instruction.

Aldridge, 60, had been president of the university since 2006 and has written and spoken widely on adult and distance education.

UMUC has four contracts with the military to teach undergraduate and graduate courses to service members overseas. Those contracts are expected to bring in $70 million in revenue in the current fiscal year. Last fiscal year, military contracts brought in $63.5 million, or 22 percent of UMUC’s total revenues, university officials said.

Enrollment and graduation rates grew steadily during Aldridge’s tenure, and she leaves the university well-positioned for future success, Kirwan said.

“They are very much at the leading edge of online education, which is the fastest-growing area of college education in America,” he said. “They are already the largest not-for-profit online education university in the United States, and I see no reason that should change.”

There were signs of discontent with Aldridge among UMUC faculty. A complaint filed last month with the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits and obtained by The Associated Press alleges that Aldridge forced out nearly two dozen administrators and professors and made lucrative severance payments in exchange for their silence.

One professor was given a buyout after she filed a sexual harassment grievance against an administrator, according to the complaint. Administrators concealed the payments from auditors by keeping fired employees on the payroll until the buyouts were paid in full, the complaint said.

Kirwan said he was aware that the complaint had been filed but declined to comment on specifics because he had not seen it.

In a 2010 survey of Asian division faculty, also obtained by AP, more than half of respondents said their morale was low. Several called for Aldridge to step down and accused the university’s leadership of caring more about money than academics.

“I think to the university’s credit, they took very seriously the results of that survey and quite a few changes have been made,” Kirwan told the AP. “My sense is that a lot of the issues the faculty raised have now been addressed.”

Miyares, the acting president, was previously UMUC’s senior vice president for institutional effectiveness.

“Over the past few weeks, we have weathered a challenging period,” Miyares said in a statement. “Now, it is time for us to move forward together.”

4 comments

  1. We are all going to miss the warmth, enthusiasm, dedication and incredible management skills of Dr. Susan Aldridge. She took a floundering UMUC and made it flourish. A new, exciting global opportunity awaits her arrival. We wish her the very best.

  2. Dr. Kirwan should be asked to resign. He never responded to the faculty regarding the results of the survey, just as Aldridge did not. How would he know if changes had been made? By asking the same people who have systematically resisted all change and who have attempted to marginalize the faculty by every means possible?

    Kirwan lauds Aldridge and UMUC in standard, empty corporate-style braggadocio, calling it a “jewel” of the Maryland University system, an “incredible university,” a model of innovation and responsiveness, a “world class leader in non-traditional, online, and cyber security education.” Has he passed a drug test lately? He has seen the Asian Division Faculty Survey. He knows what the faculty thinks of the Aldridge administration and the damage that it has done to UMUC. Why does he continue to dissemble in this fashion?

    The taxpayers of Maryland are paying this man $537,000 a year. That would be an outrageous sum even for someone doing an outstanding job, but he is not. He appointed Aldridge and has consistently defended her every time she did something unethical. He is supposed to provide oversight, but instead, in letters to the UMUC community, he refers to her as “Susan.” Jut as with the nuclear power industry, when regulators become to cozy with those whom they regulate, the public trust has been violated.

    Kirwan should be replaced with a legitimate academic, just as Aldridge should.

  3. Having known and worked with Dr. Aldridge for many years, I have the greatest respect for her professionalism and exceptional record of success. When she arrived at UMUC, she systematically began replacing the complacent and incompetent staff members, as was her responsibility. Interestingly, these are the ones who are complaining the loudest, as they miss their “fur-lined rut” in academia, and they’ve discovered there are no jobs for non-achievers.

  4. Since coming to Adelphi in 2006, Dr. Susan C. Aldridge has been able to turn a struggling, in-the-red University of Maryland University College into an efficient, profitable, proud, and academically-sound worldwide university with over 90,000 in-class and online students. She has assembled a highly qualified team of 5,000 faculty and employees at 100 different global locations. However at times, it has been frustrating for Dr. Aldridge to have to deal with certain constraints … some of which are explain below. Fortunately for her (but unfortunately for UMUC), Dr. Aldridge decided several weeks ago to pursue another higher education opportunity at most prestigious institution.

    For six years, Dr. Aldridge’s UMUC administration received outstanding reviews from across the country and from almost every corner of the world … with a couple of minor exceptions. A year ago, several faculty member in Asia were upset that after many years of effectively having fully-paid, vacation-abroad UMUC “jobs” that Dr. Aldridge was actually making them work for their UMUC paycheck. One of these faculty members had an inside contact at the Washington Post which happens to own Kaplan University, an online university that competes directly with UMUC. The disgruntled group fabricated their own “survey” about Dr. Aldridge and UMUC and forwarded the “survey” to their contact at the Post. Several weeks later their laundry list of personal complaints was not-so-surprisingly headlined in the Washington Post as a scientifically-conducted UMUC Asian Faculty Survey.

    Some discontent at UMUC has resulted from the state of Maryland’s policies and statutes. For the past four years, the Maryland has prohibited any and all merit or cost-of-living pay increases for state employees. This restriction has been especially frustrating to Dr. Aldridge … since she has many deserving UMUC faculty and employees who deserve financial rewards for their exceptional performance. However, Dr. Aldridge is, of course, not able override state policies and law.

    In addition, the state of Maryland has a (ridiculous) law requiring state-funded institutions to provide certain employees one month notice of their termination for every year that they have worked at their state job. Maryland administrators are saddled with the burden of retaining “terminated” employees for many months after the employees have actually been fired. This obviously creates an extremely toxic situation within the workplace. In some situations where a terminated UMUC employee could be a potential major distraction or even a physical threat to other employees, Dr. Aldridge has elected to pay those employees their remaining salaries and in return has secure agreements from those employees to disassociate themselves immediately and completely from UMUC. A few uninformed outsiders have called this practice “hush money”. Those who understand administration and management know that this is a smart, logical and safe business practice.

    There is not one hard-working faculty or employee at UMUC who hasn’t been amazed at Dr. Aldridge’s intelligence, energy, enthusiasm, warmth and incredible management skills during the past six years. She has done an absolutely incredible job at UMUC. When her new position is announced, those who know her well will better understand why Dr. Aldridge decided in February to leave UMUC. At her new institution, she will have total control over all personnel and salary decisions and will not have her hands tied by outside policies and statutes. We wish her the best of luck in this new endeavor.

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