When newly appointed Bowie State College President Rufus L. Barfield begins his term July 1, he will have a ready-made agenda waiting for him.
The agenda will confront the new administrator, who has been vice president for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, with a series of major decisions concerning the future of the 113-years-old institution.
Barfield's appointment as president of the formerly all-black teachers' college has been eagerly awaited for more than a year both students and faculty seeking answers to a number of key policy questions. These include:
What should the college do to resolve its problem of sharply declining enrollment? This year the decline contributed to a deficit of $315,000 and resulted in a cutback of at least nine faculty positions
Will the new president try to solve this prolem by increasing the number of white students, and if he does, how will he respond to the wishes of many black students who say they want to retain the identity of the once all-black school?
How will he remove the "stigma" that some students and administrators claim accompanies attendance at a state college which they say has a reputation for providing "inadequate education?"
Who will be responsible for determining the direction of the college's curriculum - the administration or the faculty?
How will the new president ensure that the college's curriculum is on target with the job market so Bowie State graduates can get jobs after receiving their degrees?
Should community colleges, rather than state colleges such as Bowie, provide remedial aid to students with deficient educational backgrounds? If this change is made, some students with poor educational backgrounds might not be admitted to Bowie and other state colleges.
What will Bowie do to reduce the number of undergraduate students who are currenly on academic probation? College officials say more than 10 percent of the undergraduates are in academic trouble and there is an attrition rate of more than 30 percent for undergraduates at the college.
How will Bowie State College, which has a budget of $10.7 million, prepare for a proposed state plan to move the University of Baltimore law school to the Bowie campus by 1981?
Although Barfield is not thoroughly acquainted with all of these questions, he said he is confident he can help put Bowie in the "mainstream of American education."
In a telephone interview from Pine Bluff, Barfield said he hopes to resolve the key problem of under-enrollment at the college by more vigorously marketing the school.
Bowie, which had a steady increase in enrollment until the early 1970s, reached its peak in 1973 with 3,236 full and part-time students. Since then, the college's enrollment has dropped steadily. Last fall, the enrollment was 2,875 students. The current enrollment is 2,648.
Students who are Maryland residents pay $570-a-year tuition while out-of-state residents pay $1,470. Many of those out-of-state students reside in the District of Columbia.
School officials said the reasons for the declining enrollment include: the loss of some students with high academic potential to major colleges and universities which have been aggressively recruiting black students; the lack of financial resources on the part of students; a limitation on the number of out-of-state students, and a poor educational image at the college.
"You remove the stigma of a college be telling people what the college stands for," said Barfield, who explained that the "stigma" of bad education has been part of the problem in getting students to enroll at the college.
If Barfield's plan is successful, he says, he will be able to encourage both white and black students to attend the school, which is still 70 percent black. Barfield says he is not really concerned about whether or not the white students at the school eventually outnumber blacks because he believes the black traditions at the school can still be maintained.
"White students as well as black students have to know about heritage - it is an asset to the state of Maryland. I will not come there to keep it mostly black or white, just to operate the college for the people of Maryland," Barfield said.
The problem of whether or not Bowie State College will remain a "black" institution is a key issue among most of the students interviewed at the college.
"Students realize there has been a decline in enrollment and know that they are going to have to fill this place up somehow," explained DeBorah Johnson, student government president.
She said she came to Bowie State College because she felt comfortable in a "black environment" where she could get individualized help.
Other students, who said they lived in the District, Prince George's County or Baltimore, explained that Bowie State College was like a neighborhood where they could be comfortable with the friends they, in many cases, grew up with.
The issue of the college's black identity has also been the concern of the Maryland State College Board of Trustees. Jean Spencer, executive director of the board, said the board believes that Bowie State College should serve the people of Maryland and that it will be up to the college administration to maintain the heritage of the college.
Meanwhile, the faculty of the college is concerned that the administration in the past had made decisions about the college's curriculum in instances where it should have been the faculty's rile.
The new president says he can bridge the gap between the administration and the faculty over the question of curriculum. "I feel the administration and the faculty both have a role in curriculum and often it is a togetherness role very definitely . . . I always want to involve the faculty in the decision-making process," Barfield said.
As for the future of the college, Barfield says he plans to conduct an immediate study of the college's graduates to determine whether or not the current curriculum is effective. He said the evaluation should not take long and that it should provide a clear picture as to where the college should go in the future.
Barfield said he is sure that one program - remedial aid - will remain. He said the remedial program is necessary at Bowie and other colleges because it provides the assistance for some students to advance.
Spencer has said that the state college board will soon begin a study of whether to shift remedial programs to community colleges.
Barfield added, "Other larger more elite colleges have remedial programs for students to help them grow. Our role is to help the student first. There might be basic skills programs at the university, but this does not deter other students from moving at a rapid pace."
Professor Sammye Miller, chairman of the Department of Political Science and History, said that part of the reason Bowie State College has a "bad image" is because "we accept students that no other institution would take and we then provide them with the type of aid that helps them to succeed."
Barfield said he was not familar with the plan by the Maryland State College Board of Trustees to move the University of Baltimore law school to the Bowie campus by 1981. The executive director of the board said the plan still is under consideration.
For those who have not been to Bowie, which has a rich history dating back to the period of slavery, there is a sense among many black students on campus that they are carrying on a tradition. Many of them say they were influenced to attend the institution by relatives.
The 237-acre campus, located in the midst of woods near Bowie Race Travk, is isolated from the Bowie community. This isolation, according to students, has made the college the target of criticism by local newspapers as well as the community.
On the back steps of the student union, a number of students spent an hour recently telling a reporter their problems.
"Its a unity type thing at Bowie State College. We relate to each other. We are really tired of getting bad press. As a whole, we really enjoy this school - it has a lot of potential," said 22-year-old William Huff, a junior at the college.
Another student complained that Bowie "was being attacked by local papers because they say we have nepotism and cronyism here."
College officials, who deny the practice exists anymore, admit that in the past, relatives and friends were hired by some of the college's previous administrations.
John H. Wilson, an associate dean at the college, explained that the college practice of hiring relatives and friends "was not nepotism at that time, but sort of a farm system where administrators could find people with special abilities." He said the administration had a particulary difficult time finding able blacks during the 1960s because white institutions were hiring them and paying more money.
Other faculty members, however, said they were still upset by the practice because in some cases the people hired were not the best qualified for the jobs.