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How USM Chancellor Caret wants his leaders to handle campus crises

University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret. (File Photo)

University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret. (File Photo)

With two investigations into the athletic department underway at the University of Maryland, College Park and a lawsuit alleging the University of Maryland, Baltimore County has mishandled sexual assault investigations, University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret has an important request of his presidents.

“I don’t ever want to read about anything in the paper I don’t know about,” he said in an interview with The Daily Record. “Anything you think comes to the level of a legal issue, a PR issue, an audit issue or a political issue, make sure I know about it. Because I can jump in and help or I can warn people so that the board is aware.”

That same rule extends to the presidents’ staffs because they should be letting their president know if something is coming up she or he needs to know about.

“You need a staff under you — Title IX, in your athletic department, in your counseling center — that when something is looking like it’s not right, that the president is not so insulated that he or she is not getting that information,” Caret said.

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski texted Caret to let him know that a lawsuit was coming in relation to a sexual assault case the chancellor had previously been made aware of.

“(Hrabowski) gave me a heads up before I saw it in the paper, and so I knew about it and I gave a heads up to (Board of Regents Chair James) Brady,” Caret said. “I knew about this situation about a year ago, only because they wanted me to know that there was a Towson student and one or more UMBC students and that gave it interest to the system. That was all I heard about it was that there was this potential grievance or suit. And then it disappeared. And so the next time I heard about it was when Freeman texted me telling that this claim was about to occur.”

At College Park, Caret said, the ESPN story alleging the school’s football program had a toxic culture came as a surprise to everyone, including University of Maryland, College Park President Wallace Loh.

“He keeps me, I would say, as well-informed as any president,” Caret said. “He’s very proactive on talking with me about a lot of issues. I think, and I won’t speak for him, I think the ESPN article was a surprise to me and I think a surprise to him based on everything I know.”

Caret also says he trusts his presidents as leaders of their campuses and has faith that they can handle crises as they happen.

“We hire presidents that we believe can do the job, we trust them to do the job, and we’ve already obviously said to them, when these kind of things happen look into yourself and make sure, because a president is, he’s got a thousand things going on,” he said.

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has made critical comments about Loh’s handling of the College Park investigations. But there has not been pressure from the state’s political leaders to make any leadership changes on the state’s flagship campus, Caret said.

“I would say the board and I are under political pressure to make sure we figure out as best we can what’s going on and … if there is something wrong, I’m not sure there is a toxic atmosphere in my athletic department at College Park, but if there is, we’ll fix it,” he said. “And if we fix it we’ll try to make sure other campuses, not only in the system, fix it.”

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