For several months, most of us have known that Robert Caret would be the new System Chancellor. We have no access to the search team, but from the outside we think that it chose wisely. Caret’s current job is President of the five-campus University of Massachusetts system. Before that, he headed San Jose State and Towson. He left Towson in 2011 to head north. His new Maryland job officially begins July 1 although he has been making trips to Maryland to meet with key politicians, state officials, and others.
The Baltimore Sun (December 2014) ran an article headlined “Caret described as transformative, assertive leader.”
Folks at U. Mass are not happy about the departure. “UMass trustees are still reeling from Caret’s sudden departure. Chairman Henry M. Thomas had been directed to negotiate a new contract with Caret and when he signed, everything seemed settled. Bob Connolly, vice president of communications in the UMass president’s office, insists Caret ‘disclosed contacts and discussions with the University System of Maryland at appropriate junctures throughout this process.’ Connolly added: ‘In seeking to extend his contract, UMass took the step that it would have taken given the outstanding performance review President Caret had received, but also was zealous in its efforts knowing of Maryland’s interest and given its desire to retain President Caret’s services.’” (Boston Globe, 26 December 2014)
The Baltimore Business Journal reports (22 December 2014): “A strong relationship with the business community will be a top priority for incoming University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret. Support from businesses is vitally important to the university system’s success, which is why Caret plans to spend a lot of time getting to know local business leaders, he said December 19 at a press conference.” Yes, one has to consider the power centers of the state. Let us hope, however, that components of our state’s higher education without obvious connections to the business community are protected and enhanced by the incoming chancellor.
Laslo Boyd, former state higher education official and professor, reports in his blog on a discussion he had with Caret; he discerned these goals: increase completion rate, maintain access and affordability for students, making universities more responsive to workforce needs, increasing the contribution of our universities to the state’s economic vitality, and promoting higher education’s importance.
One controversy that arose during Caret’s Towson leadership was the establishment there of an MBA program that Morgan State people saw as unnecessary duplication. It is hard to imagine, however, a major institution not offering an MBA.
In December Caret gave a talk at his introductory session at the Maryland System. Check it out at http://vimeo.com/115068180.
Of course, a key issue will be cuts in public funds for our universities – yes, additional cuts. Will he make across-the-board cuts, or will he be selective among campuses and within them? If he opts to select, what will be the criteria? If workforce needs and other contributions to the state’s economic vitality are criteria, the liberal arts may experience additional cuts.