Questions, But Still Interest in Coppin State President Position

The Miles W. Connor Administration Building at Coppin State University in Baltimore.

Recent chatter about merging major education institutions around Baltimore hasn’t hampered the search for a new president at Coppin State – but a search committee and the University System of Maryland regents and chancellor are on the offensive.

In mid-July, University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke proposed on the opinion page of The Baltimore Sun to restructure the University of Baltimore, Coppin State University and Baltimore City Community College to create the City University of Baltimore.

Schmoke – also a former city mayor and current chair of the Baltimore City Community College Board of Trustees – said the resulting collaboration could streamline administrative functions, coordinate technology improvements and eliminate duplicative academic programs. Under the plan, the colleges would retain their distinct identities, but work together as a collaborative similar to the 23-college City University of New York. The City University of Baltimore would still operate under the broad University System of Maryland umbrella.

Schmoke’s opinion piece came in the midst of the application period for a new Coppin State University president.

“That has led to some questions,” Chancellor Robert Caret told the Board of Regents at a meeting in Baltimore on Wednesday morning.

Caret, who said in a Baltimore Sun article that he supports the idea, said the search committee, himself and regents Chair Linda Gooden have sought to reassure candidates that any change is far into the future and wouldn’t dramatically alter the position.

University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret

“Regardless of what kind of structure Coppin is in, we need a strong Coppin president,” Caret said. “… If something happens, it’s going to happen a long ways down the road.”

Schmoke wants the General Assembly to establish a committee to study a potential City University of Baltimore before considering any legislative action.

The proposal has garnered some support among legislators, who are out of session until Jan. 8.

Ellen Herbst, vice chancellor for administration and finance and a member of the search committee, said Schmoke’s op-ed came out just before a committee meeting, which led to a long discussion.

“The bottom line for the search committee – and a number of them go back with Coppin a very long time – was that we’ve heard this idea before. If somebody is scared away because of this op-ed, then we don’t want them,” Herbst told the board.

And while the committee and search firm, Academic Search Inc., have fielded some questions about the proposal, it hasn’t had any negative impact on the quality or quantity of candidates, Herbst said.

The application period closes Aug. 26 and the committee hopes to install a new president in January.

Other searches

The regents also received updates Wednesday morning about the search for a new chancellor to replace Caret, who announced in May that he would not seek an extension of his contract when it expires in June 2020.

The first search committee meeting was held July 11 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus. The committee also has held two days of listening sessions with staff, faculty, campus presidents and others to learn more about what people hope to see in the next chancellor.

Gooden said the committee hopes to finish the search in December and name a successor in the spring.

Caret updated the board about the search for a new president at the University of Maryland College Park. A search committee for that position hopes to pick a candidate by early spring and have a replacement for current President Wallace Loh installed by July 1, 2020.

Caret said there have been questions about the implications of legislation passed last year to reform the Board of Regents as well as a review by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges which found a lack of transparency and leadership by officials in the wake of the practice-related death of football player Jordan McNair last year.

In June, University of Maryland College Park was placed on warning by its accrediting agency, which cited concerns about transparency in governance.

“We’ve been discussing with them all the progress that has been made relative to how we operate in the state to give them some sense that things have happened and we’re moving in the right direction,” Caret said of the concerns he’s heard.

The chancellor said he’s talked to a number of people across the country who are interested in the position and he has forwarded their names to the search firm Isaacson, Miller.

Caret said there should be more action in the presidential search in the next two months, including town hall forums at the College Park campus.

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