From the infamous acts of the former American University president to the bald cupidity of his victim in her attempt to capitalize upon misfortune, the Berendzen affair seems to have tainted everyone involved. Now the taint has passed to the officers of the university, and the affair has moved from the sordid to the absurd.
Richard Berendzen has engaged in acts of moral turpitude that have brought embarrassment upon the university and should have resulted in summary dismissal. Instead, the trustees of the school have undertaken a shameful offer of compensation, a breach of faith with the university community and a clear indication that personal comportment of school officials, no matter how odious, is of no concern to the institution.
That the termination of Richard Berendzen's affiliation with the university has apparently never been considered is hard enough to fathom. That he should receive a million-dollar windfall as a direct result of his criminal notoriety is foolishness of mind-boggling proportions.
DANA M. WEANT Alexandria
It is unbelievable that an institution of higher learning such as American University is contemplating such a closed-minded, cold action as offering former president Berendzen just over $1 million to sever his ties with the university.
At American University the goal is to teach young people the values and skills needed to be responsible and influential members of society. Offering money to Richard Berendzen -- the man who in his 10 years of service to this university elevated it to a status it could never before claim and who raised millions of dollars for the university -- in exchange for the severing of his ties to the university is contradictory to the goals of American University. It is sickening that the board of trustees can be so cold as to offer money to a man who needs support from the university in his time of healing.
As a sophomore at American University, I have seen the entire Berendzen controversy unfold. Dr. Berendzen has a psychological problem, and what he did was not evil or malicious. The student body recognizes this and supports him in his recovery. We do not need to complicate his problems by coldly forcing his disaffiliation with the university he helped to create. Richard Berendzen should not be forced to sever his ties with American University.
JUDITH A. GUSZKOWSKI Washington
The events that led to the downfall of Dr. Berendzen and the money involved have blocked out the real issue: whether the students, faculty and staff have a right to a voice in the governance of their university.
As a junior at American University, I know that the 48-member American University Board of Trustees has only one faculty member; he also serves as the attorney to the university. There are no students or staff on the board.
Admittedly, few private universities have students on their boards. But American University was chartered by an act of Congress in 1893, making it not a private university but a very public one. As a matter of fact, the charter was amended this year by Congress. Since the U.S. government has the power to change the basic governing documents of American University, can it not be argued that American University has the responsibility to adhere to the American values of representative democracy? If not, then the name of the American University is but a sham.
Last week some 1,300 AU students attended a rally on campus to demand a role in the decision-making process. Our objectives are:
1. The creation of student, faculty and staff seats on the board of trustees, with full voting rights and privileges;
2. The creation of a tripartite university policy council, which would include students, faculty and staff, to synthesize the needs and concerns of all elements of the university community;
3. The suspension of any effort by the board of trustees to disassociate Richard Berendzen from the university without regard to student and faculty input; and
4. Reform of the university structure to allow better communication, freedom of information and increased access in an open decision-making process.
All we ask is a voice in the affairs of American University. We cannot even see our charter, a public document, without permission from the university counsel. Is it wrong to ask for a voice in the bodies that affect our lives here for four years or more? Of course not.