U.S. senator requests UMUC records following resignation

A U.S. senator has taken an interest in the controversy brewing at University of Maryland University College in recent weeks surrounding the resignation of President Susan Aldridge.

Aldridge’s resignation takes effect Saturday and Javier Miyares, UMUC senior vice president for institutional effectiveness will continue in his role as acting president. According to The Washington Post, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has asked University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan to release records on “enrollment and workplace practices” at UMUC.

Under Aldridge, who has served as president since 2006, UMUC became one of the largest public online-focused universities in the world, granting more than 35,000 degrees and contributing to a statewide 7 percent increase in enrollment. The college currently serves more than 92,000 students, many of whom are adults and active military members stationed abroad. And in her term, Aldridge successfully gained 10-year reaccreditation for UMUC and expanded educational programs in the state in the areas of homeland security and cybersecurity.

However, her tenure was also marked by criticism from UMUC employees that the university’s quality of education fell by the wayside to pump up enrollment and revenue.

For example, many undergraduate courses dropped from 14 weeks to eight, and the college eliminated supervised undergraduate final exams, the Post reported Thursday. In the same article, the Post reported that UMUC requested $30 million last year to amp up its advertising despite the school’s lowest faculty pay of any University System of Maryland institution.

Additionally, faculty faced administrative cuts for supplies and travel expenses and Aldrige hired a headhunter to recruit students abroad — a practice that USM Chancellor Brit Kirwan disparaged. The contact with the headhunter has ended, according to the Post.

Although employees questioned Aldridge’s actions over the years, several told the Post doing so was risky. One former employee filed a complaint this month with the state’s Office of Legislative Audits naming more than 20 university employees who allegedly were fired or pressured to leave their positions.

Aldridge did not offer an explanation for taking leave Feb. 22 or for her decision to ultimately step down from her post.

“Given all that we have accomplished over the past six years, I think this is a good time to step down,” she said in a prepared statement.

Aldridge will remain on administrative leave through Aug. 31 and will work on special projects as a UMUC special adviser under the direction of Kirwan and Miyares, according to the Post.

— Rebecca Lurye is a senior staff writer for The Diamondback

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One comment on “U.S. senator requests UMUC records following resignation

  1. ivorytower22 says:

    Since coming to Adelphi in 2006, Dr. Susan C. Aldridge has been able to turn a struggling, in-the-red University of Maryland University College into an efficient, profitable, proud, and academically-sound worldwide university with over 90,000 in-class and online students. She has assembled a highly qualified team of 5,000 faculty and employees at 100 different global locations. However at times, it has been frustrating for Dr. Aldridge to have to deal with certain constraints … some of which are explain below. Fortunately for her (but unfortunately for UMUC), Dr. Aldridge decided several weeks ago to pursue another higher education opportunity at most prestigious institution.

    For six years, Dr. Aldridge’s UMUC administration received outstanding reviews from across the country and from almost every corner of the world … with a couple of minor exceptions. A year ago, several faculty member in Asia were upset that after many years of effectively having fully-paid, vacation-abroad UMUC “jobs” that Dr. Aldridge was actually making them work for their UMUC paycheck. One of these faculty members had an inside contact at the Washington Post which happens to own Kaplan University, an online university that competes directly with UMUC. The disgruntled group fabricated their own “survey” about Dr. Aldridge and UMUC and forwarded the “survey” to their contact at the Post. Several weeks later their laundry list of personal complaints was not-so-surprisingly headlined in the Washington Post as a scientifically-conducted UMUC Asian Faculty Survey.

    Some discontent at UMUC has resulted from the state of Maryland’s policies and statutes. For the past four years, the Maryland has prohibited any and all merit or cost-of-living pay increases for state employees. This restriction has been especially frustrating to Dr. Aldridge … since she has many deserving UMUC faculty and employees who deserve financial rewards for their exceptional performance. However, Dr. Aldridge is, of course, not able override state policies and law.

    In addition, the state of Maryland has a (ridiculous) law requiring state-funded educational institutions to provide certain employees one month notice of their termination for every year that they have worked at their state job. Maryland administrators are saddled with the burden of retaining “terminated” employees for many months after the employees have actually been fired. This obviously creates an extremely toxic situation within the workplace. In some situations where a terminated UMUC employee could be a potential major distraction or even a physical threat to other employees, Dr. Aldridge has elected to pay those employees their remaining salaries and in return has secure agreements from those employees to disassociate themselves immediately and completely from UMUC. A few uninformed outsiders have called this practice “hush money”. Those who understand administration and management know that this is a smart, logical and safe business practice.

    There is not one hard-working faculty or employee at UMUC who hasn’t been amazed at Dr. Aldridge’s intelligence, energy, enthusiasm, warmth and incredible management skills during the past six years. She has done an absolutely incredible job at UMUC. When her new position is announced, those who know her well will better understand why Dr. Aldridge decided in February to leave UMUC. At her new institution, she will have total control over all personnel and salary decisions and will not have her hands tied by outside policies and statutes. We wish her the best of luck in this new endeavor.

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