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COLLEGE PARK – After announcing his decision to step down and retire at the end of the 2019 spring semester as the president of the University of Maryland, it was announced that Wallace Loh will be staying in his role in College Park for one more year.
It was “mutually agreed” to keep the eight-year president through 2020 following a University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents meeting in Baltimore with Loh on Jan. 30. The topic of looking for a new president has not been in the Regents agenda since Loh made the public announcement of leaving in October.
“The search for the next leader of Maryland’s flagship, the University of Maryland, College Park, will be critically important to the future of that institution and the entire state,” said USM Board of Regents Chair Linda Gooden. “We must take the time necessary to identify and select a bold and talented leader who can continue the upward trajectory of one of the nation’s great public research universities.”
Loh announced his retirement after the board’s decision of keeping former Head Football Coach D.J. Durkin following an investigation into his coaching staff’s conduct towards players on the team. Those actions were partially to blame, together with improper treatment by the medical staff, that led to the death of lineman Jordan McNair on June 13 after an offseason workout.
“The university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made,” Loh said in press conference in August, announcing the start of the internal investigation on McNair’s death and the culture of the football team.
The investigation found that Durkin did not monitor the behavior of his staff and players did fear reporting questionable actions to officials in the athletic department. Nationally, Loh was applauded for his handling of the situation and following his retirement announcement, fired Durkin amid a public backlash on the board’s decision.
“I’m proud of the shared legacy that has been created, and I will have more to say about that at a later time,” Loh said on Oct. 31 in a press conference in Baltimore. “For now, I’m focused on helping to navigate this great institution through the storm, and I will be focused on leading the flagship to continued success and a smooth transition in leadership.”
On campus, there were mixed reviews on his tenure. Students were happy with the decision of removing Durkin, considering the scandal brought a dark cloud over the university. However, fans were upset to learn that it was Loh who nixed recommendations to overhaul the health care program for athletes a year before McNair’s death, according to several media reports.
Meanwhile, 26 student organizations on campus protested against Loh, calling McNair’s death part of “a pattern of negligence and disregard for students” under his administration in a letter released on Nov. 2. The organizations, the majority of which led by minority students, demanded his removal and protested in front of McKeldin Library on Nov. 5.
“We demand that President Loh’s leadership over this university be permanently ended,” the letter said. “We demand that the bylaws of the Board of Regents be amended to include and prioritize student input into the appointment of his successor, as well as the appointment of all future presidents and the creation of future university policies.”
In the next year, the USM will retain an executive search firm and establish a search committee, comprised of faculty, staff, students and alumni, to help with the process of looking for a new president. The committee will be tasked to host forums with the College Park campus community for input, officials say.
Once finalists are set, the board will make the final section, according to USM. The process is expected to take one full year to complete.
“For eight years, I have been honored to serve the state’s flagship institution as the accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni have propelled Maryland to new heights,” said Loh. “The board discussed with me having a smooth transition of leadership and we mutually agreed upon a retirement date of June 2020. With all of Maryland’s supporters, I look forward to what we will accomplish together.”