Hiring process for new UMD diversity chief raises 'red flags'

The co-chair of a committee tasked with finding a new Chief Diversity Officer for the University of Maryland reportedly took the job himself with no public interview process.

Dr. Roger L. Worthington, formerly a professor in the school’s education department, was named as UMD’s new Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Provost in early July, but according to The Diamondback, Worthington did not go through the standard process of participating in a public forum despite having been intimately involved in the selection of three finalists for the role, all of whom were rejected after multiple days of interviews and public forums.

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The search for a new diversity officer began in January following the resignation of Kumea Shorter-Gooden, at which time the school announced that Provost Mary Ann Rankin would lead the search for a new hire.

The search committee was co-chaired by Worthington and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Warren Kelly, both of whom attended a listening session with current students in March before embarking on the search for an ideal candidate.

By April, the search committee was planning to meet to discuss people they’d like to invite to interview for the position.

"The search is going well," Kelley told the Diamondback at the time. "The search firm says there is a lot of interest expressed nationally about this position.”

The committee recommended three candidates, but university administrators reportedly determined that the role would have to be filled sooner than any of the candidates could begin following a series of racially-motivated incidents, including the discovery of a noose at a UMD fraternity house and the stabbing of a black Boise State University student on UMD’s campus.

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"This position had basically changed because our campus had changed. They needed someone to be able to come to campus quickly," Kelley said. "[With the other finalists] it could be many months before they could come to campus and many months before they could learn the ropes."

While it is unclear what Worthington’s salary will be, a Campus Reform investigation found that his predecessor, Kumea Shorter-Gooden was paid $210,536.

Worthington declined to respond to a request for comment from Campus Reform, but spokespersons for UMD referred Campus Reform to a press release touting Worthington’s hiring in which UMD President Wallace Loh calls him an “exceptional scholar-practitioner.”

Student Government Association President A.J. Pruitt, however, took issue with the irregularities surrounding Worthington’s appointment in an op-ed for the Diamondback.

“While I cannot criticize the ultimate decision to hire Worthington, I must express my concern with the manner by which this decision was made,” Pruitt states, noting that while other applicants were required to undergo an intensive search process, “the same cannot be said of Worthington. In fact, it is my understanding that university leadership never sought the input of student leadership in making this decision.”

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“Even more distressing is that Worthington served as co-chair of the search committee for the position he now holds,” Pruitt adds, saying, “This should have raised immediate red flags, and is yet another testament to the lack of transparency that underpinned this decision.”

UMD spokesperson Katie Lawson provided Campus Reform with a statement responding to the allegations of a potential conflict of interest by asserting that Worthington had been “unreservedly endorsed” by the search committee he had co-chaired.

“The search committee recommended three, external finalists. At that point, the formal work of the committee was complete,” the statement explains. “When Dr. Worthington was put forth by university leadership in consideration for the Associate Provost and Chief Diversity Officer position, he was unreservedly endorsed by the search committee.”

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