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Prairie View President Faces Criticism

Prairie View President Faces Criticism
Over Commitment to Research

Prairie View A&M President Charles Hines is the target of a letter signed by 18 faculty members criticizing him for repeatedly interfering with research and academics at the historically Black university about 50 miles northwest of Houston. In addition, a group of Waller County ministers recently demonstrated on campus and collected hundreds of signatures asking for Hines’ resignation. The ministers, who are Black, accused Hines of being a “token Black” who is doing the bidding of the mostly White A&M board.
But the retired Army major general who has been Prairie View’s president for seven years is still believed to have the strong support of the university’s nine-member board because of the many improvements he has overseen at the school.
“He’s very motivated,” regent chairman Erle Nye of Dallas told the Houston Chronicle last month. “He has a hard job. He works long hours, and he’s 100 percent committed, particularly to helping students who have been underserved.”
Hines, Nye said, “could have handled some things better.” However, he attributed the criticisms to the faculty’s resistance to change.
This summer, Hines had given physics professor Dr. Dennis Judd nine months to shut down the particle physics experiment funded through a $673,000 U.S. Energy Department grant or leave the university for alleged policy violations. Hanging in the balance was one of the school’s largest research grants and national recognition for work on the experiment, which produced a number of Black physicists (see Black Issues, Sept. 13).
The Prairie View team and a group from the University of Texas at Dallas are the only Texas researchers among 600 scientists working on the experiment. Researchers at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center at Menlo Park, Calif., are examining the smallest bits of matter known to learn more about the fundamental building blocks of the universe.
Hines had accused Judd of breaking Prairie View A&M policies by allowing one of his doctorate-holding researchers to help in a geology lab even though a different professor was listed as the instructor of record.
An audit, however, cleared Judd of any wrongdoing in the government-funded science project and Hines decided to renew the experiment for another year, reversing a previous pledge to kill it (see Black Issues, Dec. 6).
But, several days after the audit cleared Judd, he and 17 other faculty members signed a letter urging the A&M board of regents to take “serious action” against Hines because the president “has persistently intruded in a negative way on the operation of academic programs and basic research projects.”
The dean of the newly created juvenile justice school, in a previously unpublicized incident, recently filed a grievance with the board of regents accusing Hines of interfering in the affairs of the school, including wanting the last word on which doctoral candidates are admitted.
Hines, 66, has dismissed the criticisms as grumblings spurred by his changes. He said his priority is to improve the university, which has historically has ranked near the bottom in the state in average student entrance exam scores and graduation rates.  

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