Two of Maryland’s top higher education positions will get fresh faces next year when University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert L. Caret and University of Maryland, College Park President Wallace Loh step down from their posts.
Caret announced Thursday that he would not seek a contract extension when his employment agreement with the system expires in June 2020. Loh announced in January that he would retire from the university at the end of June 2020.
Caret, 71, informed the USM Board of Regents via email May 8 that he would not be seeking an extension.
“So let me reaffirm that I am fully committed to and intend to perform my duties and responsibilities as Chancellor through the contract term ending on June 30, 2020,” he wrote. “This has always been my intention. However, I would also ask not to be considered for an extension beyond that date. Given this is a personnel issue, I would ask that it is kept confidential until we decide when and how best to announce it.”
The changes provide opportunities for a fresh start in leadership, particularly in the chancellor’s office, where confidence has waned after a year of controversies.
The chancellor of the University System of Maryland plays a significant role in acting as an intermediary between its 12 institutions and their governing bodies, including the Board of Regents and the state legislature.
The position includes advocating for state funding and relaying how the system’s universities perform in their roles of academic success and economic development.
But scandals within and without the chancellor’s office had eroded confidence in Caret’s leadership, particularly confidence in Annapolis.
During the most recent legislative session, lawmakers cut $642,600 from the system office’s budget, the exact amount of the chancellor’s annual salary, to send a message to regents about their thoughts on Caret’s performance.
That erosion of confidence came after Caret took a conspicuously quiet role when the Board of Regents took over the investigation into the death of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair and a second investigation into the football team’s culture.
Behind the scenes, Caret played an important role in working with both the board and Loh, but his absence as a public spokesman for the system was noted.
That may have been because then Board of Regents chair James Brady took on the role of public spokesman. A review by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges interviewed some people who said that Brady’s visibility and Caret’s marginalization may have been due to the pair’s “dysfunctional” relationship.
More worrying for some in the state legislature was an ethics issue that led to a settlement with an employee who filed a grievance, reported by The Associated Press.
Caret had sent an email to higher education leaders in other states promoting Pandora bracelets. That email eventually led to a grievance over alleged retaliation by Caret and a settlement signed by the chancellor.
These incidents led to board chair Linda Gooden offering assurances to lawmakers that Caret’s employment would not be extended, according to sources
A favorable reputation
Caret has maintained a favorable reputation within the national higher education community.
He was a recent chair of boards of the National Association of System Heads and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Board of Directors. He is also a member of the boards of the Business-Higher Education Forum, the Higher Ed for Higher Standards Advisory Council and the Government University Industry Research Roundtable.
“I’ve happened to know him well for a number of years,” Terrence Taggert, a former chancellor of university systems in Maine and Minnesota who helped compile the AGB review, told the regents last month. “He is one of the strongest chancellors in the country and widely respected.”
A release from the University System of Maryland touted Caret’s fiscal management of the system and its enrollment growth of 7% during his tenure.
He has also been responsible for the creation of an investment fund for startups coming out of the state’s universities and created programs to try to improve education outcomes for children in Baltimore.
In his statement, Caret said that he would pursue other employment opportunities.
“Returning to the state where my career in public higher education began was a dream come true, but now is the time for me to move on and explore other professional options,” he said.
Given his experience with national boards and other university systems, there may be opportunities outside of Maryland for Caret. But his employment agreement with the system also offers an opportunity for him to stay in Maryland.
Under his agreement, Caret can return to a full-time professor position in Towson University’s Department of Chemistry, where he started his career. He can take a one-year sabbatical at the same salary as his base salary his final year as chancellor.
After the sabbatical, he can return to Towson at a salary that is 75% of his final salary as chancellor the first year and then no less than 50% of his final salary as chancellor after that.
Caret will likely also receive compensation from the system after his time as chancellor ends. He is eligible for a $53,000 retirement subsidy.
“I want to thank Chancellor Caret for his leadership and service to the state, and we wish him and his family well as they look to the future,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement.
No details about the search for Caret’s successor have been released yet. It is likely to take about a year to complete.