The Mayland NAACP has protested the appointment of a white interim president for predominantly black Bowie State College, charging the move "has no broad base of support among black educators or black students."
In a letter to Sheldon Knorr, Maryland's commissioner of higher education, state NAACP president Nathaniel K. Smith demanded assurances that the interim president, Edmund C. Mester, "would not substantilly atler the special role and mission of Bowie State College as a black institution."
Smith also protested that Mester, former exective director of Maryland's Board of Trustees of State Universities and Colleges, had had little contact with black administrators, faculty or students in a leadership position.
"Mr. Mester has not held a major academic or administrative position in a college or university during this decade or the last," Smith said.
Disputing Smith's contentions, Mester said he was executive director of the state university and college trustees for nine years before being named iterim president at Bowie on June. 2.
As trustees director, he said, he had frequent dealings with black faculty and administrators. Additionally, Mester added, during the administration of former Gov. J. Millard Tawes he was the governor's representative in dealing with black leaders during the racial protests of the early 1960s in Cambridge and Princess Anne.
"I have some credibility in the black community," Mester said.
Mester said he could understand that the appointment of a white president of a prodominantly black college could make black leaders uneasy, but he added that as president he will have no power "to alter the special role and mission of Bowie State . . ."
During his term at Bowie, Mester said, he will have the same authority as other college presidents to pick and choose top administrators, but he added that his appointment will probably last no more than a year, by which time a permanent president is expected to be named. Mester said he is not a candidate to be the permanent president at Bowie, which is about 82 per cent black.
The protest of Mester's appointment cames at a time when colleges in Maryland and other states are under increasing pressure to desegregate. Many black educators are extremely sensitive that such pressures may result in predominantly black colleges losing their identity as black institutions and ending as white schools.
In a response to Smith, Korr said he is fully supportive of both desegregation of the state colleges and the "growth and development of the predominantly black institutions in Maryland."
Howard P. Rawlings, education chairman of the Maryland NAACP, said the Association did not have a special candidate in mind for the president's job.
"Our preference would have been someone who had more college or university experience in a setting with significant numbers of black faculty and students present. Ed Mester does not have that kind of experience," Rawlings said.