Criticized Texas university president retiring

McALLEN, Texas (AP) - The president of University of Texas-Pan American, accused anonymously of plagiarism, said Tuesday she is retiring because of "pressures" that taxed her health and distracted her from her job.

Blandina "Bambi" Cardenas, 64, announced she will step down at the end of the month after 4 1/2 sometimes turbulent years at the university.

"The pressures of the last several months have seriously taxed my health and well-being and impaired my ability to lead the University with the intensity and focus I believe necessary," Cardenas said in a letter to the campus issued Tuesday. She underwent heart surgery in 2007.

Cardenas said she informed University of Texas System Interim Chancellor Kenneth Shine of her decision in late December. The university public affairs office said she wouldn't comment further.

In October, anonymous allegations mailed to the University of Texas System and media outlets around the state suggested Cardenas had plagiarized portions of her doctoral dissertation. The senders claimed to be UTPA faculty.

The university system, which oversees nine universities, said in late October it would investigate the allegations, but David Prior, the executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the inquiry was halted before it was finished.

"Once we understood Dr. Cardenas' intention to resign we abandoned it," Prior said. Asked if Cardenas was pressured to step down, Prior said: "Not to my knowledge."

Under Cardenas, the university in Edinburg increased the number of students receiving degrees by 58 percent, to more than 3,200 annually. It also raised the number of graduate degrees offered, the number of nursing graduates, the amount of available financial aid and the freshman and sophomore retention rates, according to Cardenas' letter.

But in 2007, Cardenas had to pay back to the university more than $7,000 she used to pay for landscaping service and install an air conditioning unit, sprinkler system and alarm in her home. She had also been billing the university for mileage for her commute to work.

The University of Texas System Audit Office concluded that Cardenas did not know she was breaking the rules.