W. Ann Reynolds, who was forced to resign recently as chancellor of the California State University, is the front-runner to head an even more politically troubled education system--the City University of New York.
According to well-placed sources in New York, Reynolds' problems in California over secret pay raises and a bad relationship with legislators have not hurt her chances to become chancellor of CUNY. Her record in helping to boost minority enrollment at Cal State impressed officials at CUNY, where about 65% of the students are black or Latino.
Members of the CUNY committee searching for a new chancellor are said to have ranked Reynolds first among three finalists. The final selection of a new chancellor by CUNY's governing board may be announced today, officials said.
CUNY leaders view Reynolds as the sacrificial lamb in the Cal State pay controversy and believe that the Cal State trustees "left her in the lurch" after privately approving the large raises for Reynolds and other executives, said an official of the faculty union in New York. "She also made a good personal impression," the official said of Reynolds' interviews in New York.
Reynolds, who is said to be recovering at her Bel-Air home from recent knee surgery, declined to comment on her status as a finalist for the CUNY job, according to a Cal State spokesman. The other two finalists are reported to be Roderic B. Park, vice chancellor of UC Berkeley, who was passed over a few months ago in the selection of a new head of the Berkeley campus, and Robert L. Hess, president of Brooklyn College in the CUNY system.
With 195,000 students, CUNY is the third-largest higher education system in the nation, after the state university system in New York and Cal State. Among CUNY's 20 units are such nationally known institutions as Hunter College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan and lesser known schools in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Its current chancellor, Joseph S. Murphy, has held the job eight years and intends to return to teaching once a successor takes over.
Some observers think that a move from Cal State to CUNY would be like going from the frying pan into the fire.
Because of state and city budget crunches in New York, the CUNY faces a painful round of cuts. A CUNY chancellor has to find a safe path through New York state and city politics, which make California lawmaking look like a polite tea party. Also, CUNY is beset by racial tension, most recently shown in the takeover of campus buildings last week by minority students demanding more black and Latino professors and a minority chancellor.
Reynolds is white, but being among very few women to achieve her status in higher education may help her chances at CUNY, the sources said. Reynolds also is a finalist in the running for chancellor of the West Virginia University system.
A zoologist, Reynolds was second in command at Ohio State University before becoming Cal State Chancellor in 1982. Her tenure as head of the 20-campus Cal State system brought expansion and improvement in academic standards but also criticism over what some called Reynolds' dictatorial style.
Her forced resignation was announced April 20 as a result of the controversial 21% to 43% salary increases arranged in secret last year by Cal State trustees and Reynolds. Faced with an angry faculty and Legislature, trustees later claimed to have been misled about the raises. Reynolds' clout slipped when it was revealed that she previously had promised legislators that any pay raise decisions would be made in public.
Reynolds originally planned to remain at Cal State through October but the trustees two weeks ago put her on immediate vacation through July 31 when her resignation takes effect. Cal State Hayward President Ellis E. McCune was named acting chancellor.