University System of Maryland Chancellor Stepping Down in 2020

University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert L. Caret. USM photo

The University System of Maryland Chancellor won’t seek a contract extension and plans to leave the university in June 2020 – which is also the expected departure date of University of Maryland President Wallace Loh.

Chancellor Robert L. Caret, 71, made the announcement public on Thursday. He informed the Board of Regents last week that he will step down on June 30, 2020 and did not wish to be considered for a contract extension.

Legislation passed in Annapolis this year requires more transparency over Board of Regents activities, including personnel decisions and specifically the chancellor’s contract and compensation.

Top leadership within the university faced criticism for the way they handled a series of personnel decisions – including to reinstate football coach DJ Durkin, who was later fired by Loh– after the practice-related death of football player Jordan McNair.

Since those late October personnel decisions, former Board of Regents chair James T. Brady stepped down from the board and was replaced by Linda Gooden, who committed to reforms and supported legislation in Annapolis this year that will change the composition of the regents and bring about other reforms.

While a bill to bring more transparency to personnel and other decisions by the Board of Regents was pending during the legislative session, news broke that an employee who raised ethics concerns about an email from Caret promoting a business was later the subject of retaliation. In response, lawmakers reduced the chancellor’s office budget by $642,600 – the same amount as Caret’s salary – and added a requirement to the ethics bill to notify the governor and General Assembly 30 days before a salary increase, severance package or financial bonus for the chancellor takes effect.

Caret and the Board of Regents have not responded publicly to those portions of the legislation. At a recent regents meeting where the reform efforts were discussed, some campus presidents thanked Caret for his leadership.

Caret started his career at Towson University in 1974 as a faculty member in the chemistry department. He subsequently served as dean, executive vice president, provost and president of the campus. He also worked as president of San Jose State University in California and president of the five-campus University of Massachusetts system.

In 2015, he returned to Maryland as chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

“Maryland launched my academic career, invited me to become president of the campus that meant so much to me and then asked me to become system chancellor,” Caret said in a news release. “Three times, Maryland has asked an immigrant’s son from a mill town in Maine to be part of this remarkable public university, and I am truly grateful to have had these opportunities to serve.”

Caret said he has spent the past 45 years “doing the work I was meant to do.”

The University System news release said enrollment on the state’s campuses increased from 164,000 to 176,000 during Carets tenure, a time when the student body also became more diverse.

“During Chancellor Caret’s tenure, the system has built upon its role as an economic engine and economic catalyst for the state, with the number of degrees awarded rising to more than 42,000 per year – a figure that includes at least 80 percent of Maryland’s bachelor’s degrees,” Gooden said in a statement.

The news release also lauded Caret for holding down tuition costs within the system, where almost 50 percent of undergraduate students graduate without debt.

The release said Caret, the son of a French-Canadian immigrant who ran a diner, considers the shuttering of mills in his childhood town of Biddeford, Maine, a defining experience. Many of the millworkers never earned another paycheck because they lacked the education and skills to find other work.

“As a young man growing up in a fading mill town, I instinctively understood that education was the answer – education was the ticket to a better life,” Caret said in a statement. “That was true then and it remains true today.”

Additional details about the search for a new chancellor were not immediately available Thursday morning.

“I look forward to working with the Board and the Presidents over the next year to continue to move the System forward, to guide the search committees in the hiring of the Presidents at the University of Maryland College Park and Coppin State University, to continue our efforts focused on student success, and the wide range of complex initiatives on our agenda,” Caret said.

The Board of Regents announced Thursday afternoon that they’ll hold an emergency meeting via teleconference on Friday morning to discuss a personnel matter and discuss succession planning for University System of Maryland leadership.

Also on the agenda is discussion “regarding a student matter at UMCP involving potential litigation,” without including specifics. The Washington Post on Thursday published an investigation detailing College Park leadership’s response to a mold infestation and adenovirus outbreak in November 2018 that led to the hospitalization of 15 students and death of freshman Olivia Paregol.

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