Howard University president Sidney Ribeau announced this month that he is stepping down. The announcement comes at a critical moment for Howard. The university dropped 22 spots in the U.S. News and World Report rankings this year, and Moody's downgraded the university's credit rating last month. Howard University provost Wayne Frederick has been named interim president. He earned a bachelor's degree, a medical degree and a master's of business administration at the school. Dr. Frederick joined WAMU Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey in studio to talk about his interim role.
On president Sidney Ribeau's announcement, and whether he was forced out:
Frederick: "No, [he wasn't forced out]. He made a decision that he was ready to retire."
On the recent criticism about management at Howard:
Frederick: "This is a challenging time for higher education. When you look across the spectrum of higher education, you look at what the revenue streams are in terms of tuition, etc. I think most universities right now are facing the challenge of diversifying their revenue streams, and that's a challenge that Howard has, and one that we have to meet. On the expense side, we have to deliver that education more efficiently as well. And that's another challenge we have to meet in order to ensure that we continue to delivery quality product. In terms of the quality of the academic at Howard on the research side... this past year we graduated 99 PhDs of color. And that's very unusual."
On Howard's drop in rankings, and whether that's something to be concerned about:
Frederick: "That's something we look at very closely... in the coming years, we're not so much focused on the rankings, but on the product that we have a very strong cohort of students, and we think when you look at all of the different areas, we feel that we are doing very well in those areas."
On the Renee Higgenbotham-Brooks's letter saying that Howard won't be around in three years:
Frederick: "That letter was obviously intended for internal discussion. I think some of that in terms of the university being here in three years, I don't think is factual. I think the university is on solid ground to be here in three years. We do have to make changes and meet the challenges. There's no doubt about that. I think we have to be very up front about that. The environment we're in is very difficult. The mission that we're seeking is one to serve a population that traditionally has been underserved."
On the Washington Business Journal reporting that Howard is considering selling the hospital:
Frederick: "Yes, just as a correction, we're looking at the entire spectrum of opportunities with the hospital. Not with the sale being one extreme, but potentially a partner. And the reason for that is when you look at economies of scale, running a hospital as a one outfit institution is very unusual. It can drain resources significantly so. We are looking for opportunities to manage that better."
Wayne Frederick is the Howard University provost, and he was named interim president earlier this week.