Maryland students demand role in naming Loh's successor, say regents should be elected

The Baltimore Sun

After a campus protest broke down in disarray over the issue of boycotting football, University of Maryland, College Park student groups signed a joint statement calling for a role in the selection of next president and that the Board of Regents be elected.

Several hundred people, including students and faculty, gathered Thursday for a rally outside the university’s administrative building in College Park. The group initially called for support of student athletes in the wake of the university’s response to football player Jordan McNair’s death, but divided midprotest into two separate crowds — one calling for students to show up to football games en masse in support of the players and one calling for a boycott of the games.

A day later, more than 20 student groups co-signed a statement listing three demands and announcing plans for a second rally at 3:30 p.m. Monday on campus in front of McKeldin Library.

The letter delivers a blistering opinion of President Wallace Loh, who announced Tuesday plans to resign at the end of the school year in June.

“Under President Loh’s leadership, the university’s consistent inaction has lead to a culture which normalizes and nurtures racism and hatred,” the letter states. “Dialogue, committees, task forces, and commission reports have proven insufficient in preventing such acts of violence. The administration holds institutional power, and is thus responsible for creating the institutional changes we need to prevent negligence and acts of violence.”

The three demands were that Loh follow through on his promise to step down in June, that students be included in the selection of the university’s next president before the end of the 2018-19 school year and that the state legislature amend how the Board of Regents are selected to a democratic process in which students can participate.

The letter did not mention a boycott of football games nor a call to attend games in support of football players — the point of contention at Thursday’s protest.

Student groups also pointed to events leading up to McNair’s death, including the university’s response to the slaying of Bowie State student Richard Collins III on UM’s campus by a former UM student, and a proliferation of hate incidents on campus.

The students’ statement caps off a tremendous fallout this week over the university’s handling of McNair’s death.

McNair, 19, died of heatstroke June 13, two weeks after he collapsed during a football team conditioning test.

The regents sparked uproar from students and lawmakers when the board recommended this week to reinstate athletic director Damon Evans and head football coach DJ Durkin. Loh announced the same day his plans to retire.

Loh then announced Wednesday he had fired Durkin.

On Thursday, Board of Regents Chairman James T. Brady resigned amid student protests and donors’ announcing plans to withhold financial support.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is also reviewing the university’s accreditation.

Baltimore Sun reporters Sarah Meehan and Talia Richman contributed to this article.

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