Category Archives: Higher Education

Wolf in the Hen House

By Barry Rascovar

March 7, 2016 – Putting a wolf in charge of the hen house would be terribly irresponsible. Yet that’s what trustees at Mount St. Mary’s University in rural Emmitsburg did – with horrific results.

After an earlier, failed search to find a replacement for President Thomas Powell, trustees of the Mount – a 200-year-old, highly respected Catholic school – surprisingly named Simon Newman as the university’s leader last year.

Wolf in the Hen House

Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD

Newman’s experience in higher education? None.

He was a wolf of Wall Street, a venture capitalist and hard-nosed business turnaround specialist.

The notion that Newman would re-direct the Mount’s successful education formula in an effort to boost donations, rankings and student enrollment turned out to be specious and destructive.

Newman resigned last month after humiliating the deeply Catholic school with his tough corporate mindset and disregard for the Mount’s cherished culture of “liberal learning in the pursuit of truth.”

Trustees Blunder

It’s a classic case of poor judgment by college trustees and a lesson for other Maryland higher education institutions eager to run their campuses more like a business and less like an academic citadel.

The General Assembly is grappling partially with this issue in considering a consolidation of the University of Maryland’s College Park and Baltimore campuses. Supporters seek to accelerate discoveries and business spin-offs in Baltimore through joint research projects.

It’s all about turning UMCP and UMB into potent economic development engines. There’s less emphasis on preserving and enriching the traditional learning experience.

A two-campus solution may work exceptionally well for an enlarged UM in its quest to spur university-generated innovations and job-creating companies in today’s knowledge-based economy. These are research-rich institutions seeking promising synergies — more joint professorships, enhanced funding and spin-off commercial ventures.

But what about other colleges and universities in Maryland that are not nationally ranked research campuses?

Should those institutions be run more like businesses, cut corners to improve rankings and think more in terms of the bottom line than “learning in the pursuit of truth”?

Mount St. Mary’s train-wreck experience should serve as a warning.

Corporate Takeover Culture

Simon Newman was a bull in a china shop. He tried to bring the rough-and-tumble culture of business takeover artists to the Mount.

He bullied faculty and administrators, demanded absolute obeisance and embarked on a campaign to artificially inflate the Mount’s rankings by “culling” at-risk students even before they had been on campus six weeks.

Appalled faculty and administrators rebelled at what was called an “unethical” attempt to sacrifice students on the altar of enhanced rankings. One termed Newman’s actions “a heartless application of business procedures.”

The school’s provost was forced to resign. Two professors (one tenured) were fired for disloyalty.

On Wall Street, Newman’s stern leadership wouldn’t seem unusual. You take over a company, you “cull” less productive employees, you fire anyone voicing concerns about your new corporate direction, you eliminate low-profit divisions – and you do it all in a cold, cost-efficient manner.

Yet on a college campus, where shared governance with faculty reigns supreme and arguments over a school’s vision and actions are part of the landscape, such behavior is unacceptable. Newman’s corporate-style presidency left the Mount in shambles.

National education groups loudly condemned Newman. Finding a first-rate replacement could prove exceedingly difficulty. Recruiting quality faculty and students could be even more challenging.

Non-Traditional College Presidents

A few other Maryland colleges and universities have chosen non-traditional presidents, but they have avoided the Mount’s horror story.

In 2002, the University of Baltimore hired a pharmaceutical executive, Robert Bogomolny, as president. But Bogmolny also had been a law professor. It turned out to be an inspired choice (through he stoked tensions with the law school’s dean over a diversion of tuition money).

Under Bogomolny, UB was transformed into a more traditional college campus with a student union building, residential housing and an eye-catching law school building. Bogomolny’s corporate background took a back seat to his respect for academic traditions.

His successor, Kurt Schmoke, also had a non-traditional background – a lawyer turned mayor turned law school dean. His selection proved quite popular.

In 1995, Hood College had great success hiring a former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner and Justice Department lawyer, Shirley Peterson, as its president.

Goucher College turned to a former director of the Voice of America and a respected journalist, Sanford Ungar, as its president – but he also had been dean of the School of Communications at American University.

Washington College last year chose a former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Sheila Bair, as its new president. An expert on financial regulatory reforms, she had taught that subject at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The Chestertown school previously was led by Mitchell Reiss, a veteran State Department diplomat who had cut his teeth in academia as a government and law professor and vice provost at William and Mary’s law school.

Soul-Searching

In none of these instances did university trustees select a president ignorant of the unique culture of academia. And in no other instance did the trustees seek to bring more of the corporate culture to campus.

There’s certain to be plenty of soul-searching at the Mount over what went wrong and how to return the institution to its historic mission of providing students with a warm and welcoming learning environment steeped in Catholic values.

Using rough-hewn business tactics on college campuses doesn’t work. Trustees with years of experience as corporate executives need to keep that in mind before they make the same mistake as the Mount.

###

Hogan’s Foot-in-Mouth Disease

By Barry Rascovar

  Feb. 22, 2016 — Gov. Larry Hogan, Jr.’s words and hyper-partisan messages caught up with him  last Thursday.
  He got hammered by Democratic legislators, and for good reason.
  The Republican governor forgot that the words he chooses can have consequences, especially when you belittle elected lawmakers and issue statements that are intended to insult and inflame.
Hogan's Foot-in-Mouth Disease

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Jr.

  The Donald Trump approach to politics won’t work in Annapolis. It may make Hogan even more beloved by conservatives but his legislative agenda could go up in flames.
  Walling off Democratic lawmakers from participation in major state policy decisions is coming back to haunt Hogan. He’s out of touch with their thinking on key issues and his proposals could suffer as a result.

One Really Bad Day

  Look what happened Thursday.
  First, Hogan went on a conservative radio talk show and belittled Democratic legislators with a truly insulting and unjustified slap: “It’s like they’re on spring break,” Hogan said. “They come here for a few weeks. They start breaking up the furniture and throwing beer bottles off the balcony.”
  The comparison is without foundation.
  No wonder Sen. Bobby Zirkin of Baltimore County, one of the more moderate Democrats, responded angrily later that morning on the Senate floor and demanded an apology. Not a single Republican rose to defend the governor.
  Hogan is having trouble grasping the role of the General Assembly as a co-equal branch of Maryland government. He thinks his surprise victory in 2014 and his popularity in recent polls should allow him to do what he wants, regardless of what lawmakers think.
  It doesn’t work that way. Unless Hogan takes a more cooperative approach, he’s going to have trouble even getting his appointments approved this session.

Capital Priorities Questioned

  Also on the Thursday morning radio show, Hogan rejected the idea that he had favored a new, expensive jail in Baltimore City over badly needed school buildings on historically black college campuses
.
  Yet that’s exactly what happened when Hogan put together his capital budget. The jail project received top priority and new university buildings – many with business-development implications – were given the back of the hand.
  Black lawmakers were visibly upset at a Wednesday budget hearing after they realized higher education had been sent to the back of the bus so a new jail could arise more quickly in Baltimore.
  That rage boiled over Thursday with a hailstorm of denunciations of Hogan by black legislators for a long list of controversial decisions:
• Killing the east-west connecting Red Line subway through Baltimore.
• Refusing to fully fund education aid for Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, among others, last year.
• Neglecting black Marylanders, who constitute some 30 percent of the state’s population, and shifting state funds and programs to rural, white areas that favor Hogan.
• Not including funds in his initial budget for a new Prince George’s County hospital or for demolition of blocks of blighted houses in Baltimore.
  “There are assaults going on our black communities,” said Del. Curt Anderson of Baltimore. “We are not going to take it anymore. . . . We are not stupid. We know what’s going on, and we are going to retaliate.”
  Of Hogan’s preference for a new jail over new college buildings, Del. Barbara Robinson of Baltimore called it “unconscionable.”
  Black lawmakers indicated that Hogan gave the appearance of favoring a lock’em-up penal philosophy over improved educational and job opportunities.

Hasty Retreat

  By day’s end, the governor threw in the towel.
  He asked legislators to deep-six his jail planning funds and instead use the money for the very higher-education building projects he had put on the back burner.
  It was a humiliating defeat for the governor, and he had no one to blame but himself.
  Had he consulted initially with Democratic lawmakers about his jail project and the trade-off in delaying a half-dozen new college buildings, he would have learned immediately it was a non-starter.
  Instead, Hogan excluded elected Democrats from his jail deliberations and never bothered to test the capital budget waters with legislators.
  His hyper-partisan rhetoric only inflamed the situation with Democratic lawmakers last week.
  Unless Hogan tones down his spokesmen and his Change Maryland broadsides, there could be sharper responses from legislators.
  They have the power not only to get mad but to get even.
  Democratic Senate President Mike Miller tried to put a positive spin on the trials and tribulations of his friend the governor. “Everybody has a bad day and this was not a good day for the governor,” Miller said charitably.
  Unless he changes his approach, Hogan could experience many more bad days over the next six weeks.
###

Barry Rascovar’s blog is www.politicalmaryland.com. He can be contacted at www.brascovar@hotmail.com.

Growing Maryland

 By Barry Rascovar

Feb. 16, 2015 — If there is one area where Gov. Larry Hogan Jr. can sing “kumbaya” with Maryland legislators, it is economic development. The path has been blazed for him by the legislature’s Augustine Commission.

A year ago, top Democrats in the General Assembly recognized Gov. Martin O’Malley had badly dropped the ball on growing jobs in Maryland. So they assembled a commission, led by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, with the assignment of suggesting how to turn things around.

Commision Chair Norman Augustine

Commission Chair Norm Augustine

The group came up with 32 recommendations, all sensible and none of them novel. It won’t take much for the Republican governor and Democratic legislators to find agreement on most of those suggestions.

Underlying the bipartisan nature of the commission is the fact that Hogan’s new budget secretary, former Sen. David Brinkley, served on the panel alongside Republican Del. Wendell Beitzel. Two key Democratic chairmen, Del. Dereck Davis and Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, were on the commission, too.

Key recommendations:

  • Consolidate economic development programs, develop one-stop shops for businesses and put more emphasis on technology industries.
  • Reverse the state’s hostile, rule-enforcement approach toward businesses through customer-service training and a new, “what can I do to help” attitude.
  • Put state money into university-generated business development and address the needs of underperforming public schools.
  • Focus on unskilled high school graduates who need vocational training and apprenticeship programs.

One of the more shocking findings of the commission is that 44 percent of kids in Maryland public schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and most of them come from minority families struggling to eke out a living.

The state’s public schools aren’t giving them the right kind of education. These kids graduate without the tools to find jobs. Their path up the economic ladder is blocked.

Unskilled and Unemployed

Even worse, there are jobs out there for them — some 132,000 currently unfilled positions in Maryland. Employers told the commission they simply cannot find in-state workers who possess the right technical skills.

This glaring mismatch between education preparedness and job qualifications is one of society’s neglected weaknesses. Educators haven’t addressed it. Neither have the politicians.

They are too focused on creating college-prepared students. Those from the lower rungs of education are left to flounder with few, if any, employable skills.

Quick Fixes

Hogan and legislators can start addressing this situation with some quick fixes.

Find a pot of money for the state’s community colleges, which already lead in offering job-training and apprenticeship programs. What’s missing has been a major financial investment from the state and local governments in these specialized skills courses.

The state also needs to offer local school systems extra funds if they bring back vocational education in a big way.

High school students should be pursuing career paths and job-readiness courses, especially those not interested in college.

Such an approach is sorely needed in low-performing districts like Baltimore City and Prince George’s County and in rural jurisdictions where employment opportunities are limited.

Singing in Unison

The good news is that both Hogan and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly are singing from the same hymn book.

An even better sign: The Augustine Commission concluded what’s really needed is “a cultural change” that depends “on leadership, not money.”

If each side fully commits to the objectives laid out by the panel, Maryland actually could make progress in growing its business base and creating a workforce that is job-ready.

###

Caret Comes Home

By Barry Rascovar

Dec. 18, 2014 — Hooray for Jim Shea and the rest of the University of Maryland Board of Regents for making a common-sense choice in choosing Bob Caret as the new chancellor of Maryland’s state university system.

U. Mass President Bob Caret

New USM Chancellor Bob Caret

In an Oct. 2 column, I listed Caret as one of the best candidates with in-state higher education experience. He’s got the right personality to keep 12 competing academic institutions on the same page.

After all, he’s “been there, done that” — as president of Towson University. He’s seen what works and doesn’t work in drawing all of USM’s presidents into collaboration. (He also spent nine years running the 28,000-student San Jose State University campus to rave reviews.)

Strong Local Roots

Caret understands what it takes to coordinate a sprawling university system with multiple power centers and geographic locations. He’s done that with a great degree of success as president of the 70,000-student, five-campus University of Massachusetts since 2011.

Though he’s a New Englander, Caret’s academic career (29 years on the Towson faculty) give him strong Maryland roots. He’ll start as chancellor knowing the key players in Annapolis and in state higher education.

The regents wisely picked someone whose path parallels the career track of the outgoing chancellor of the 153,000-student University System of Maryland, the legendary Brit Kirwan (45 years on the College Park faculty).

University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan

USM Chancellor Brit Kirwan

Both men spent decades in the teaching trenches (Kirwan’s PhD. is in mathematics, Caret’s is in organic chemistry), then moved up the administrative ladder to become chief academic officer, Kirwan at College Park, Caret at Towson.

Each man gained on-the-ground experience running a university campus within a larger system — Kirwan at College Park for 10 years, Caret for 18 years split between San Jose State and Towson.

The two men also had served in major CEO roles running large, state university systems, Kirwan at Ohio State, Caret at U.Mass.

And both returned to their true higher education home, Maryland.

Mid-Year Transition

In some ways it will be an awkward transition, though that Kirwan and Caret have known each other and worked cooperatively for over three decades.

Caret’s appointment is effective next July 1. That means Kirwan, not Caret, must handle the budget retrenchment now taking place within USM’s $1.1 billion fiscal blueprint.

“Downsizing” and “right-sizing” are the operative words under Gov.-elect Larry Hogan Jr. and that will mean painful shrinkage on state university campuses.

Larry Hogan Jr.

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan Jr.

Caret must live with budget decisions made months before he arrives. He won’t be able to put his full imprint on fiscal plans until the budget for 2016 is drawn up.

That will be the key budget year for both Caret and Hogan. By then, both will be in their new jobs long enough to formulate a broader, long-range vision that will be incorporated into the state’s budget (and the university system’s budget) a year from now.

Caret is well aware of the dramatic message Maryland voters sent government leaders: Spending is spinning out of control, as are taxes; yet government isn’t doing enough to encourage job-creation.

The Maine native struck the right notes in his initial comments, saying he’ll focus on two academic priorities — making quality college education affordable and building “a research-based economic engine.”

He’s already singing Hogan’s song!

USM logo

While many USM institutions are thriving and rising in prestige, Caret faces a tough task improving the performance of the bottom-rung schools — Coppin and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

UMES’ collaboration with nearby Salisbury University is beginning to pay academic dividends, but Coppin’s sorry status remains deeply troubling. There’s a sharp disconnect between the abysmal performance of Coppin compared with the rest of the USM campuses.

Uninformed Comments

That disconnect was acutely illustrated in comments by a Coppin professor in responding to Caret’s appointment.

Virletta Bryant, who chairs USM’s faculty council, displayed stunning ignorance in stating that the USM faculty didn’t know enough about Caret to offer an opinion.

Heck, he’s only been a faculty member in the system for three decades!

Then Bryant went on to display an appalling lack of knowledge of how USM actually conducts its business by criticizing the secretiveness of the regent’s search for Kirwan’s successor.

Hasn’t she read the law that mandates the chancellor search, and vote, must be kept secret?

If that’s the best a Coppin professor heading the system’s faculty council has to offer, no wonder Coppin students are getting such a poor education.

###

Kirwan’s Replacement?

By Barry Rascovar

October 2, 2014 — The search is on to find a replacement for “Mr. Maryland Higher Education,” Chancellor Brit Kirwan, whose remarkable 45-year career at the University of Maryland could end in the next six to nine months.

University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan

USM Chancellor Brit Kirwan

It’s a national search, with a high-paid consulting firm culling the usual suspects within American academia.

Yet the solution may lie closer to home if UM’s search committee decides to seek a leader who understands the peculiarities — and frequent collisions — of academics and politics in Maryland.

Home-Grown Talent

The list of viable candidates who fit that description is surprisingly long.

Here is my roster of Big Name contenders with experience — and success — operating in this state’s often slippery terrain:

Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Pro: He’s on everyone’s short list. He’s dynamic and charismatic. He’s a national star. He’s built UMBC into a science and technology gem for undergraduates, a national chess power and a reputation for its mentoring program that advances the careers of outstanding minority students. He’d be a role model for diversity and a relentless advocate for academic achievement.

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski

Con: He repeatedly says he doesn’t want the job. He’s never led a sprawling university like the 11-campus University of Maryland System with 153,000 students. His celebrity status might become a detriment in keeping the system’s semi-autonomous campus presidents on the same page.

Steve Knapp, President, George Washington University.

Pro: In eight years, he’s dramatically upgraded GWU’s stature as a serious academic resource for the national’s capital. An English literature specialist, he proved a huge hit as dean of arts and sciences and then as provost at Johns Hopkins University. He knows how to manage large, complex university systems.

GWU President Steve Knapp

GWU President Steve Knapp

Con: It might be hard to pry him away from GWU, given his string of successes there in raising its profile as a first-rate university with growing national influence.

Jay Perman, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Pro: A voice of moderation, he’s done a marvelous job calming the roiling waters at UMB, a campus known for its silos erected by independent-minded graduate school deans. He overcame pressure from Annapolis and worked out a research partnership with College Park that’s showing results. An M.D. who still practices and teaches students from all the graduate schools about team-based medicine, Perman is steeped in local academics and health care  — five years running UMB’s pediatrics department and 13 years at Johns Hopkins heading several medical divisions.

UMB President Jay Perman

UMB President Jay Perman

Con: He’s 68 and he’s never led a university system. He’s got the laid-back demeanor of a pediatrician, which may not be what the search committee has in mind.

Bill Brody, President, the Salk Institute.

Pro: He’s a Hall of Famer in the academic medicine world, a brilliant and multi-talented leader who took a world-renowned institution, Johns Hopkins University, to new heights. He also founded three medical device companies, engineered medical imaging breakthroughs and is a superb writer and communicator.

Salk Institute President Bill Brody

Salk Institute President Bill Brody

Con: He’s 70 and has a dream job in a warm, sunny climate ripe with innovative scientists like himself.

Joanne Glasser, President, Bradley University.

Pro: She’s broken the glass ceiling twice — first at Eastern Kentucky University and then at Bradley in Peoria, Ill. A ferocious fund-raiser, she is wildly popular with students, alumni and faculty. She worked closely with President Hoke Smith at Towson University during her nine years there, focusing on fund-raising, community relations and affirmative action. A lawyer by trade and a Baltimore native, she also served as labor commissioner for Baltimore County.

Bradley U. President Joanne Glasser

Bradley U. President Joanne Glasser

Cons: She has carved out a sterling record in the Midwest and may not be ready to return to what could be a difficult situation trying to replace Kirwan, a master conciliator among both feuding academics and politicians.

Sandy Ungar, recently retired President, Goucher College.

Pro: This prolific and deservedly honored writer proved a smash hit leading Goucher fully into an era of co-education and elevated prestige. He’s got wide experience as a journalist, as director of the Voice of America and as a dean of communications at American University.

Former Goucher President Sandy Ungar

Former Goucher President Sandy Ungar

Cons: He lacks a background in running such a widespread, independent set of public university campuses and may have trouble fending off intrusive politicians in the State House.

Kevin Manning, President, Stevenson University (formerly Villa Julie University)

Pros: What an amazing job he’s done taking a small, backwater college primarily populated by female students and turning it into a trend-setting, dual campus university that keeps raising its profile academically and within Greater Baltimore.

Stevenson U. President Kevin Manning

Stevenson University President Kevin Manning

Con: It could be too big a jump from Stevenson to UMS — leaping from a private-sector institution to a massive public university system. Besides, he’s 69 and might not be the right age for the search panel.

Bob Caret, President, the University of Massachusetts.

Pro: His 25 years at Towson University, divided into two parts, saw him excel as a chemistry professor, dean, executive v.p. and provost, followed later by Act Two — nine years as President of Towson. In between, he drew raves for leading San Jose State University to unexpected heights in Silicon Valley. Now he’s doing the same at U. Mass. He’s got the ideal background to replace Kirwan, the right temperament and experience running three diverse institutions.

U. Mass President Bob Caret

U. Mass President Bob Caret

Con: He’s 67 and as a Maine native he might want to conclude his academic career in New England where he’s most at home.

Picking an Insider or Outsider?

There you have it. That’s quite a list. Who needs a costly search committee? There’s more than enough home-grown talent to find the right successor to Brit Kirwan.

All of them have shown themselves to be strong leaders, great collaborators, peacemakers and outstanding relationship-builders.

Choosing an outsider, someone lacking in years of experience within the unique setting that is Maryland could be a huge mistake.

###

MD Higher Ed: Kurt’s In, Brit’s Out

By Barry Rascovar

May 19, 2014 — In 24 hours last week, Maryland higher education underwent a rapid shakeup.

First came the long-expected but deeply regretted retirement announcement of William E. “Brit” Kirwan as top dog at the University System of Maryland.

University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan

USM Chancellor Brit Kirwan

Then came the surprise announcement former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is returning to his birth city as president of the University of Baltimore.

Kurt’s in; Brit’s out.

50-Year Academic Career

There’s no way to put a happy face on Kirwan’s retirement.

He’s been Mr. Higher Education in Maryland. Except for five years running a little ol’ rustbelt university called Ohio State, Kirwan dedicated his 50-year academic career to UM.

This former math professor staged a triumphal return from Ohio State as the popular choice to turn the UM system into a first-rate collegiate conglomerate. He largely succeeded, leaving USM with an international reputation.

The Chronicle of Higher Education rightly called the congenial Kirwan “a longtime national figure in public higher education.”

From Mayor to Dean

Schmoke, meanwhile, didn’t leave Baltimore in 1999 on an upbeat note.

His three terms as mayor of a troubled, aging urban city received middling marks. Progress largely stalled.

His place in the city’s history fades compared to his do-it-now predecessor (William Donald Schaefer) and his charismatic successor (Martin O’Malley).

The quiet, thoughtful Schmoke was better suited to academia.

New University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke

New UB President Kurt Schmoke

He found his niche as dean of the law school at Howard University (2003-2012), where he restored the school’s diminished reputation. During a time of flux at Howard, he then provided stability in the dual roles of general counsel and interim provost.

Now he’s been handed academia’s brass ring — a college presidency.

Bogomolny’s Contribution

Schmoke is fortunate he’s following the transformative Robert Bogomolny, who showed that a good manager with vision can put a struggling university on an upward trajectory. New, standout mid-town buildings. A full four-year undergraduate curriculum. A higher profile among Baltimore schools.

Continuing that momentum should be easy for Schmoke, given his wide name recognition among city elites, his genial demeanor and his understanding of what makes Baltimore tick.

The new UB president may have more difficulty adapting to the sharp elbows and intense in-fighting among leaders at the 11-campus, 154,000-student University System of Maryland.

Schmoke fared well at Howard, a private college with 10,000 students. UB has only 6,500 students and is part of a huge public university closely scrutinized by Annapolis politicians and overseen by a chancellor.

Kirwan’s Achievements

That’s where Kirwan could have provided strong support and guidance.

He kept simmering intra-campus disputes under control and steered feuding parties toward collegial middle ground. He balanced competing interests at those institutions while demanding improved academic performance.University System of Maryland

Kirwan embarked on an efficiency and innovation campaign, under pressure from the Republican Ehrlich administration, leading to over $400 million in savings. This made tuition hold-downs possible under the Democratic O’Malley administration without harming classroom quality.

The USM Chancellor championed broader use of less expensive internet courses, integrating computers into traditional lecture courses, eliminating non-essential offerings and revamping math, science and engineering programs.

Kirwan knew how to communicate with powerful regents, governors, legislators, competing college presidents, students and the public.

Who Comes Next? 

Finding a replacement with that same demeanor and collaborative mindset won’t be easy, but at least two USM presidents ought to receive strong consideration — Dr. Jay Perman at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and Freeman Hrabowski at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Without Kirwan around, Schmoke will have to learn through experience that being a second-tier college president in a massive university system like USM isn’t all upbeat.

Exiting Chancellor Kirwan and UB President Robert Bogomolny

Exiting this summer: Chancellor Brit Kirwan (L) and UB President Robert Bogomolny (R)

The system’s largest and most important campuses, UMB and the flagship College Park institution, get most of the money and attention — deservedly so.

Meanwhile, a surging Towson University, with three times more students and massive campus improvements, is upstaging UB and attracting many of the best prospective UB undergraduates.

At the same time, a federal lawsuit by historically black institutions over program duplication could put a crimp in UB’s plans to offer popular areas of study.

Whither Higher Education?

Public higher education in Maryland is littered with question marks at the moment.

It’s becoming too expensive. Yet demand grows for more and better career-path studies. Fund-raising is difficult because of the system’s heavy state subsidy.

Competition among area institutions, both public and private (UMBC, Towson, UB, UMB, Coppin, Morgan State, Loyola, Notre Dame, Hopkins, Goucher, Stevenson), is intense.

Schmoke will have his hands full at the University of Baltimore.

So will Brit Kirwan’s successor as chancellor of the state’s university system.

#  #  #

 

 

 

 

Tennessee Leads the Way

Boosting Community Colleges

By Barry Rascovar

MARYLAND is way behind the learning curve. It needs to look to what Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is proposing in Tennessee: free community college for any high school graduate in the state.

While Gov. Martin O’Malley’s State of the State Address lacked creativity and forward-looking initiatives, Haslam delivered a cutting-edge plan to Tennessee lawmakers. He’ll use lottery proceeds to set up a $300 million endowment for the two years of free-tuition guarantees to state high school grads at community colleges or technology centers.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam

The “Tennessee Promise” stands in stark contrast to O’Malley’s niggardly attitude toward Maryland community colleges, which actually serve as the education backbone of this state. Instead of making enhanced funding of community colleges a priority, the lame-duck governor wants to reduce mandated funding levels.

It’s another example of O’Malley’s missed opportunities.

Perhaps some of the wannabe candidates for Maryland governor will notice Haslam’s daring proposal in Tennessee, which could put that state in great position to attract new companies. In Maryland, sadly, community colleges remain an undiscovered gem.

*     *     *

Rob, We Hardly Knew Ye

GOOD NEWS for democracy: Twelve-term Congressman Robert Andrews of South Jersey is making an early exit from Capitol Hill in ten days. Thank goodness.

Andrews is under investigation for using campaign funds for family trips to California and Scotland. In 24 years, he’s had no real leadership role in the House.

Retiring Rep. Robert Andrews of New Jersey

Retiring Rep. Robert Andrews, (D-N.J.)

He’s introduced more bills than any other congressman during that time. His record of success? Six hundred forty-six bills thrown in the hopper; none passed.

Think about that.

A .000 batting average.

O for 646 at-bats, with 646 strike-outs.

No wonder the Washington Post labeled Andrews “America’s least successful lawmaker.”

His departure will hardly make a wave.

#     #     #

Maryland’s Slick Casino Move 

NO ONE noticed at the time, but Maryland pulled a fast one on casino bidders for the new license in southern Prince George’s County.

Everyone was expecting a long, drawn-out courtroom battle after MGM Resorts International won the coveted license. MGM plans to build a $925 million luxury gambling/hotel mecca overlooking the national’s capital.

MGM Casino at National Harbor

MGM Casino at National Harbor

But neither Greenwood Racing nor Penn National, the losers, will contest the award — despite the fact Penn National could see its Charles Town, WV, casino lose hundreds of millions of dollars due to MGM’s earlier-than-expected start in mid-2016.

Why didn’t the losers gripe in court and prolong the matter? Because of a provision in the state’s request for proposals (RFP). It turns out, the state gets to keep all of the bidders’ down-payments until appeals are concluded.

That would have meant the $18.5 million Penn National put up, and the $29 million Greenwood Racing put up would be locked away in an escrow account for years.

That’s a hefty punishment for profit-making companies to absorb.

The companies decided to forego the longshot bet of winning on appeal. This way, they get all those millions returned immediately so they can re-invest that money in other casino bids or expansion elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the state gets to reap a gigantic benefit — the early opening of what experts say will be the most profitable casino in the mid-Atlantic region, with the state keeping over half of those proceeds.

#     #     #

 

The New Segregation in Maryland Colleges

By Barry Rascovar

November 5, 2013 — U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE Catherine C. Blake missed the mark by a country mile in her decision on eliminating vestiges of racial separation in Maryland’s state colleges and universities.

Indeed, her remedy perpetuates Maryland’s “shameful history of de jure segregation throughout much of the past century.”

Blake wants Maryland’s predominantly white colleges to give up popular programs so historically black institutions  (HBIs)can develop monopolies in those areas.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake

Judge Catherine C. Blake

This, she reasons, will send white students flocking to HBI campuses.

That idealistic but flawed logic – students have numerous options today that make mass transfers to HBIs highly unlikely – is now guiding discussions between the two parties in Blake’s courtroom.

Central Issue Unaddressed

But the root of the problem remains firmly intact. Indeed, it wasn’t even touched upon in Blake’s 60-page ruling.

The most effective and rational way to eliminate segregation at Maryland state colleges? Dramatically transform the schools that remain overwhelmingly segregated.

Morgan State, Coppin State, Bowie State and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore were established to give African Americans separate college opportunities.

That is still the case – only the education offered at HBIs is too often inferior:

  • Which Maryland state colleges have, by a wide margin, the lowest SAT scores for entering freshmen? The HBIs.
  • Which schools have the highest remediation needs, by far? The HBIs.
  • Which schools have the lowest graduation rates, by far? The HBIs.

Maryland has tried to solve this by throwing money at the problem.  Yet even Judge Blake concluded the HBIs get far more state aid per student than other colleges.

This approach hasn’t worked.

Expensive construction projects for HBIs have given those campuses beautiful new buildings and state of the art equipment. Yet they remain segregated.

And they underperform academically, which punishes students.

Perpetuating the Problem

As long as Maryland supports colleges grounded in perpetuating their role as HBIs, they will remain out of the main stream – and unlikely to ever become well-integrated campuses.

That’s the cruel truth African American leaders don’t want to hear.

Morgan State students

Morgan State students in class

Over the decades they have vehemently resisted any suggestion other than pouring more and more money into the HBIs.

They’re proud of their colleges, which have endured incredible hardships.

They especially don’t want HBIs to lose their special status as incubators for African American professionals.

21st Century Solution Needed

But this is the 21st century, not the early or mid-20th century. You can’t live in the past.

Colleges segregated by sex are nearly extinct. Military colleges are dwindling. Diversity, not exclusivity, is the goal of universities.

It’s ironic that attempts to truly integrate Maryland higher education meet the strongest resistance from leaders of the African American community.

White politicians have gone along with their African American colleagues rather than face a firestorm of angry bigotry accusations.

This simply continues the status quo – a de facto, segregated higher education system.

By the Numbers

Students, meanwhile, are voting with their feet. Every year historically white state colleges draw a more diverse group of students:

  • University College, the online option at the University of Maryland, enrolls more students of color (19,299) than whites (16,713).
  • At College Park, white students (19,669) make up only a little over half the student body (37,241).
  • At UMBC, white students (6,548) constitute less than half of overall enrollment (13,637).
  • At the University of Baltimore, black (2,412) and white enrollment (2,888) is close to even.

Now look at the situation at Maryland’s four HBIs:

  • Morgan State has 273 white students out of total of 6,677 (4 percent).
  • Bowie State has 198 white students out of 4,731 (4 percent).
  • UMES has 675 white students among its student body of 4,454 (15 percent).
  • Coppin State counts just 49 white students out of a total of 3,039 (1.6 percent).

It’s not just whites who feel out of place on those campuses. Even fewer Asians or Hispanics sign up there. It’s a dismal situation.

Blake’s remedy might be part of a broader solution, but simply redistributing popular academic programs won’t do enough.

After all, colleges operate in a competitive marketplace. If HBI campuses remain comfortable islands of black students, other students will simply gravitate elsewhere.

It’s already happening. Shifting academic programs isn’t a compelling answer.

Unpopular Options

What might work? Mergers, consolidations and intensive collaborations among Maryland state colleges.

Here are some ideas – all too hot for politicians or educators to handle:

UMES

Salisbury University and UMES already are engaged in successful intra-campus academics that are popular with students from both institutions.

UMES campus

UMES campus

What’s now needed is a long-range plan to gradually merge Salisbury into UMES.

The goal should be strong academic centers of excellence on both the Salisbury and Princess Anne campuses – only 12 miles apart.

Two-campus institutions are eminently workable. A prime example: Stevenson University’s enormous success operating a liberal arts Greenspring Valley campus and a new, fast-growing Owings Mills campus with a quite different academic focus.

The howls of protests would be fierce. Yet the benefits for students attending a twin-campus University of Maryland, Eastern Shore would be immense.

Morgan State

Morgan State Logo

Morgan State Logo

Of all the HBIs, Morgan State University is best positioned to evolve into an academic gem. It needs special status, though, similar to the arrangement the state established for St. Mary’s College.

It would take considerable extra state support and creativity to develop a range of targeted, demanding, urban-focused programs that appeal to a rainbow of students from Mid-Atlantic states and beyond.

Coppin State

Few students arrive on this West Baltimore campus well prepared. Most need an enormous amount of remedial help. The graduation rate is a terrible 20 percent.

Coppin needs to give laser-like attention to undergraduate education.

An affiliation with the Baltimore City Community College seems the best fit. After all, community colleges do a great job preparing poorly educated high school graduates for the rigors of college academics – Coppin’s biggest failing.

Close collaboration with the University of Baltimore is a necessity, too.

UB offers quality undergraduate teaching for its diverse student body and popular post-graduate programs.

Consolidation or merger of the two nearby schools would be the best long-term outcome.

Bowie State

This campus should become the adopted “little sister” of the University of Maryland, College Park. There’s no telling how many niche programs from the flagship institution might fit neatly onto the Bowie campus.

Bowie_State_University_GatewayThe caliber of teaching would be vastly improved with close collaboration, too.

A second step: Bring Prince George’s Community College onto the Bowie campus to mentor and prepare freshmen for college-level courses.

Adjusting to Today’s Realities

None of the four HBIs should continue to exist in their current role.

Through no fault of their own they represent the shameful, segregated past. They were created and perpetuated to keep the races separate.

That separation remains in place today, but for different reasons.

It is time to put this sad history to rest through steps that truly integrate Maryland’s HBIs into this century’s more inclusive American society.

###

 

 

Smart Growth, Dumb State (Guess Which One)

owings mills metro centreBy Barry Rascovar / June 19, 2013

THE STATE OF Maryland boasts mightily about its Transit Oriented Development (TOD) programs. Just don’t bother looking for much in the way of tangible results.

“Maryland has great TOD potential” brags the state on its transportation website. Dig a little deeper, though, and it turns into wishful thinking, not boots-on-the-ground achievements.

TODs are the ultimate in Smart Growth.

They turn transit stations into job-centered areas of dense, walkable neighborhoods in both cities and suburbs. Other towns, like Seattle and Denver, offer examples of how to do it. (For more on the potential of “transit villages” in Maryland, see my 2006 Goldseker Foundation report – “Five Years, Fifty Thousand Jobs,” page 13.)

The Baltimore-Washington region, unfortunately, offers examples of how to draw up great plans and watch them fall apart or gather dust.

That thought came to mind at a ribbon-cutting Monday for the state’s one true TOD – Owings Mills Metro Centre.

Brand New Neighborhood

What you see along Grand Central Avenue (see photo above) is a long row of apartment buildings on one side of a broad boulevard and a six-story, library-community college building on the other side flanked by a massive garage — soon to be doubled in size — and an office high-rise under construction.

All of this sits beside the Metro station that connects to downtown Baltimore and Johns Hopkins Hospital. On the east side of the tracks is a huge parking lot. This eventually will become part of the mixed-use TOD.

A brand-new neighborhood is being created where none existed before.

The rail station, library and community college are the draws. A short walk up the hill is a multiplex cinema, townhouses and an aging mall that, if reimagined properly, could extend the scope of this TOD. Just down the road is a large retail development in progress, centered around a Wegmans supermarket.

This TOD will boast a residential population of 2,500 with many more office workers populating the area during the work week. Shops and restaurants will occupy ground floor space. Over 11,000 community college students a year are expected to take day and night courses at the new Community College of Baltimore County campus, sharing facilities with the already popular library branch (the largest in the county at 54,000 square feet).

Persistence Pays Off

What made this a reality was the unwavering commitment of county officials, from Dutch Ruppersberger to Jim Smith to Kevin Kamenetz. They not only funded key infrastructure, they stuck to the vision of making the Owings Mills TOD primarily a residential community.

Instead of transplanting a state agency to a transit station – the state’s feeble stab at the New Carrollton TOD in Prince George’s County – Baltimore County insisted on a library and a community college. These are the sort of amenities people want to live near.

(Had officials taken the same approach at the stalled and deeply flawed State Center TOD in Baltimore – by turning the property into a large mid-town residential neighborhood with appealing attractions – there might have been only token opposition.)

The path to the Owings Mills ribbon cutting wasn’t easy. It proved long (well over a decade) and arduous, especially during the dark days of the Great Recession.

But the county persisted. Officials continued their dialogue with developer Howard Brown until the economics worked.

You can see the future emerging at the Owings Mills Metro. It’s what every TOD should look like.

It’s just a shame Maryland has been so slow catching on to what works, and doesn’t work, in making this valuable Smart Growth tool a success.

[To receive future columns by email, click the “SUBSCRIBE” button on the right-hand side of this page.]

 

Look to Shock Trauma’s success

By Barry Rascovar / The Community Times / May 15, 2013

After a response team dragged unconscious firefighter Gene Kirchner from an intense three-alarm house fire on Hanover Road in the early hours of April 24, he wound up in the only place equipped to deal with his life-threatening injuries, the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Unfortunately, even the renowned doctors at Shock Trauma could not save Kirchner, an eight-year veteran of the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company.

He died last Thursday, only the second firefighter to die in the line of duty in the 100 years of the RVFC.

It is not often that Shock Trauma loses its battle to preserve life. Fully 96 percent of those admitted survive.

Trauma doctors there believe that if badly injured patients arrive at Shock Trauma within that “golden hour” following an accident they can be saved.

Using unconventional methods such as simultaneously treating multiple aspects of a patient’s critical injuries immediately upon arrival, the Maryland Shock Trauma Center has revolutionized emergency medicine.

But sometimes there is little doctors can do to help someone as critically injured as Gene Kirchner.

Ironically when the center’s staff and guests gathered for their annual gala recently, the evening centered on another fatality that had been turned into a remarkable “gift of life.”

Physician-in-chief Dr. Tom Scalia described how he and his team fought to revive a pedestrian who had been struck by a car, 21-year-old Joshua Aversano of White Hall. Sadly, Joshua’s brain injury was too severe.

At that point Joshua’s family made the decision to contribute Joshua’s body parts to help others. What followed was a true miracle.

Over a three-day period, six people were given life-saving organs, Joshua’s heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys and lung. It was a mighty tribute to Joshua and his family, and to the enormous skills of the Shock Trauma team at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

But the truly amazing part of the story was yet to come: using Joshua’s facial bones, skin, tongue, teeth and underlying muscle and tissue to perform the world’s most extensive full-face transplant.

Over 150 doctors, nurses and other professionals participated in this 36-hour marathon. The Virginia patient, who had lived as a recluse since a 1997 gun accident shattered his face, received a new lease on life.

When 37-year-old Richard Norris walked on stage, he was a man reborn with nary a wrinkle.

An incredible amount of research preceded the surgery, much of it funded by the Office of Naval Research. The hope is that similar facial transplants will aid servicemen maimed by explosives.

Each year, 8,600 gravely injured people arrive at Shock Trauma, most of them via State Police Medevac helicopter, part of Maryland’s integrated emergency medical network.

It is a remarkable organization, heavily supported by taxpayer dollars. They did their best to save Gene Kirchner. He would have been the first to recognize their heroic efforts.

Barry Rascovar of Reisterstown is a writer and communications consultant. He can be reached at brascovar@outlook.com.