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.
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.”