UDC Names Interim Leader After Dismissal of President

Rachel Perry, who has held a number of administrative posts, will run the historically Black school.

Posted: 12/26/2012 08:58 AM EST

(Photo: Courtesy UDC)

A leading administrator at the University of the District of Columbia has been selected as the interim head of the school following the dismissal of the former president.

The school selected Rachel Perry, who has served as chair of the school’s department of psychology and counseling as well as acting vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college of arts and sciences.

Perry comes to the position after the dismissal of Allen Sessoms, who was terminated by the university last week after a four-hour, closed-door meeting with the board of trustees at the historically Black university.

“Dr. Petty is the right person at the right time to assume this leadership position,” said Dr. Elaine Crider, a member of the school's Board of Trustees, in a statement. “Her dedication to this University is well known, and we are excited about the future.”

Sessoms had been president of the university for about four years. Before coming to the University of the District of Columbia, Sessoms served as president of Delaware State University and Queens College in New York.

In the university’s statement the  trustees said they're seeking a new leader to guide the university through "the challenges of reducing staff and programs" while trying to attract new students to the school.

The trustees did not provide details on why the president was dismissed. However, a year ago, Sessoms was criticized for filing reports that exposed a pattern of flying first class on university business. At the time, he explained that he needed to buy airline tickets that were refundable and more expensive because of his unpredictable work schedule and is need for additional leg room because of circulatory problems in his legs.

According to federal data, the University of the District of Columbia had about 4,900 students as of fall 2011. The college has long been troubled by low graduation rates. Roughly 8 percent of students pursuing a bachelor’s degree who started at the school in fall 2005 graduated within six years, according to the data, with many students transferring to other schools or dropping out.

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