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USM takes another step toward implementing oversight reforms

University of Maryland president Wallace Loh speaks at a 2018 news conference to address the school's football program and the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who collapsed on a practice field and subsequently died, in College Park. Loh will leave his post in 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

University of Maryland president Wallace Loh speaks at a 2018 news conference to address the school’s football program and the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who collapsed on a practice field and subsequently died, in College Park. Loh will leave his post in 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents plans to begin making changes to its bylaws next month as at least one legislator is pleased with how it has worked to implement reforms ordered by the General Assembly.

A law designed to increase transparency and oversight for the board that oversees most of the state’s public universities took effect last month. The measure requires things like live video streaming and public comment opportunities during meetings.

“I’m happy with the track that they are on right now,” said Sen. Sarah Elfreth, D-Anne Arundel and the law’s primary sponsor. “I think it’s going to be a work in progress as they move forward to see how effective the changes they made are and to see if the public feels that they are being represented.”

The board reviewed proposed changes at a special meeting Wednesday morning in Baltimore.

The death of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair and the board’s response to his death led to the passage of the oversight law.

The board led investigations into McNair’s death and the football team’s culture. The fallout from those investigations spurred questions about the board’s commitment to shared governance on campus and to a backlash from legislators and the university community. There were also criticisms of the degree of secrecy under which the board reached some of it decisions.

The board will provide video livestreaming of its regularly scheduled full board meetings but not committee meetings or special board meetings. These meetings typically take place at various university system campuses.

The first scheduled meeting this fiscal year, Sept. 20 at Coppin State, will be streamed.

The law also expands the board’s size by four regents — adding the state secretary of commerce, a member appointed by the speaker of the House of Delegates, a member appointed by the Senate president and a second student member.

Linda Gooden, chair of the Board of Regents, publicly supported the legislation. Elfreth said USM has been cooperative in implementing the law.

Gooden was named as House Speaker Adrienne Jones’s choice to the board. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has not yet announced his choice to serve. Gov. Larry Hogan has four appointments to make by the next legislative session.

Those appointments must be confirmed by the state Senate and, under the new reform law, the board’s chair must also be confirmed by the Senate. For that reason, the board will not elect officers until its December meeting this year.

Many of the changes will become part of the system’s bylaws at its regularly scheduled meeting next month.

The board has also implemented some changes not required by the legislature but that came out of a report the board commissioned from the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities.

Most prominently, the board has assigned a regent to each of its institutions to become more familiar with the campuses and their leadership. It also will provide each member institution with a liaison with whom each member institution can communicate directly about board activities.

Search updates

The board is also conducting three searches for leaders. System Chancellor Robert Caret and University of Maryland, College Park President Wallace Loh will leave their posts in June. Former Coppin State University President Maria Thompson departed last June. Former Bowie State University president Mickey Burnim is serving as the Coppin State’s interim president.

The system plans to wrap up the chancellor search first. It plans to name a new chancellor by December to take over for Caret on July 1, 2020.

The system also plans to wrap up the Coppin State search within the next six months, with the goal to name a president who could start in January.

That search has not been hurt by University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke’s suggestion in an opinion column that Coppin State be a part of a proposed City University of Baltimore.

“Regardless of what kind of structure Coppin is in, we need a strong Coppin president,” Caret said at the meeting.

Ellen Herbst, the system’s vice chancellor for administration and finance, said if a candidate is “scared away because of that op-ed, then we don’t want them.”

The presidential search at College Park will take longer than the other two searches. Leaders plan to wrap that search up by “early spring” with the new president ready to take over July 1.

Elfreth does not have concerns with how the searches have been run so far, though she noted they are being closely watched.

“Everybody’s eyes are going to be on it,” she said. “We’ll see what happens.”

She believes it would be inappropriate for the legislature to insert itself into leadership searches at the system.

“We don’t want to overstep,” she said. “I don’t believe there is any reference to presidential searches in Maryland law.”

 


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