After five years as chancellor of the University of Maryland at College Park, it looks as though John B. Slaughter can finally take a breather, and I, for one, am pleased that he was able to ride out the storm created by the cocaine overdose death of Len Bias last year.
At that time, people were openly questioning why he had not resigned, or simply been dumped right along with the basketball coach and athletic director. Here was one of the few black executive officers of a major university campus about to bite the dust, it seemed, because he had not kept a close enough eye on his sports program.
Criticized because players were flunking courses left and right, mocked for spending time on the baseline at basketball games, Slaughter was pictured as a promoter of a "win on the court at the expense of classroom accomplishment" mentality.
Slaughter even admitted that he had made some mistakes, and when asked at a news conference in October 1986 if he planned to resign, the 53-year-old chancellor replied solemnly, "If it's necessary to do that, I'll do that."
Until that sordid situation blew up in his face, Slaughter had loomed larger than life, at least in my mind. In the wake of allegations of misconduct and mismanagement by then- University of the District of Columbia President Robert Green, Slaughter was proof positive for all doubters that a black person could run efficiently the seventh-largest campus in the country.
This perception was important in ways that a lot of people don't understand. A black athlete, for example, will invariably be held up as a role model, spurring many a black child to want to grow up to be a ball player. Which is okay, really.
It's just that a black university president will be ignored until he does something wrong, spurring many a black child to tune out talk of academic leadership, which is not okay.
There are university presidents such as James Cheek of Howard, who should get more recognition and not have to wait until he is embroiled in controversy over school policy. Indeed, a lot of good things are happening over at Howard besides the Bison football winning streak. I hope we'll be hearing more about Howard in the future.
What has been happening at the University of Maryland under Slaughter is nothing short of outstanding, and as he wraps up his fifth year bruised but not bounced, now seems to be an appropriate time to cite some of his accomplishments.
Most important is that total black enrollment has increased from 2,745 when he took over in 1982 to 3,230 this year, a 17.7 percent increase, and that comes at a time when many other major colleges are showing a decline in black enrollment.
As for student performance, average SAT scores have jumped 50 points in the last five years -- from 982 to 1,032. There were 1,086 freshman applications for the fall 1987 Honors Program, 29 percent more than in 1986.
The average SAT score of new honor students is 1,360 and their average high school grade point average is 3.6.
The number of faculty members rose from 2,278 in 1981 to 2,448 in 1986 and the number of ranked faculty members -- assistant professor and higher -- increased from 1,337 to 1,445. The number of women ranked faculty members rose from 230 to 253 and the number of black ranked faculty members rose from 34 to 46.
Under Slaughter, more money has been allocated to strengthen graduate fellowship and faculty research programs, and a comprehensive review of undergraduate education has been completed with recommendations that will improve the quality of education even more.
Greater attention has been paid to issues of concern to women and minority members, as reflected in the increased enrollment and hiring of both, and official policies have been developed to prohibit sexual harassment and reduce inequities in salaries and promotions.
Slaughter had been criticized for being slow to act when it came to making badly needed athletic reforms. But in moving at a record pace when it came to making reforms in the school's academic programs, he has demonstrated that his priorities are very much in order.