A newly appointed presidential search committee at the University of the District of Columbia will meet this week to begin looking for a permanent replacement for Robert L. Green, who resigned as president six months ago.
Trustee Peter B. Edelman, chairman of the nine-member search committee appointed in December, said a new president could be selected by September, the beginning of the next academic year. But other trustees and university officials said the process could take much longer.
The board is paying $15,000 for consultants to help "scour the country" for prospects, Edelman said. Meanwhile, board Chairman N. Joyce Payne has assembled an advisory commission to make recommendations about the future structure and direction of the university, including whether UDC should continue its policy of open admissions, which guarantees admission to anyone with a high school diploma or equivalent.
The commission, headed by Stephen Wright, the former president of Fisk University, also will consider the role of vocational, liberal arts and graduate education at UDC.
Some university officials have said they would like to wait until the commission has finished its review -- possibly as long as 15 months -- before selecting a president.
"I don't want another president to come into UDC until we deal with these problems," said trustee Joseph Webb.
Green resigned from his $74,900-a-year post last Aug. 23 amid allegations that he had misspent thousands of dollars of university funds for travel and personal items. Claude A. Ford was appointed to serve as acting president until a permanent replacement is chosen.
Since Green's departure, the trustees have taken steps to untangle a web of political and administrative problems that have enmeshed the university since it was established nine years ago. A transition committee was established to review personnel matters and financial management, and the board has implemented new policies regarding trustees' attendance at board meetings.
Political undercurrents continue to affect a host of activities at the university, including the selection of the presidential search committee. The committee was to include one faculty member, but Payne rejected the choice of art professor Meredith Rode on the ground that she was picked by the faculty senate and not by the larger faculty assembly. The faculty senate has been one of the most active constituencies lobbying for more power for faculty members at UDC.
Some have objected to the appointment of the commission, according to sources at the university. Some District officials say they think that the board is circumventing the D.C. government by bringing in a national panel to make recommendations about a city agency, one highly placed source said.
The greatest challenge facing the university as it launches its search for a new president is how to sell the virtues of the institution to prospective candidates. Green's replacement will be the fourth president at UDC in nine years. Nonetheless, Edelman and others said that UDC is a university with great potential that should be able to attract a top-notch president.
"It ought to be regarded as a challenge instead of things that are insurmountable," Edelman said. "The building blocks are there. It's going to take some real work and some real talent and maybe some good luck."
The board is divided on whether the new president should be primarily a scholar or an administrator and whether he or she should have an advanced degree. Some trustees have said that the president needs a strong academic affiliation to put UDC on the map as a serious educational institution. Others say the most critical task for a new president is managerial -- to streamline the university by reducing administrative overhead and imposing massive reductions-in-force.
There is also debate over whether the new president should be from the District or recruited from outside the area.
The presidential search committee is composed of Edelman, Trustees F.D.R. Fox, Thomas A. Hart and Herbert O. Reid Sr., student trustee Robert King, former trustee Lorraine Whitlock, faculty leader Wilmer Johnson and former UDC president Lisle Carter Jr.