The chancellor of Maryland’s university system said Thursday he will step down next year, after state lawmakers cut funding from the system’s budget by an amount equal to his annual salary to express displeasure in the system’s handling of a University of Maryland football player’s death and how the chancellor dealt with a separate ethics query.
Chancellor Robert Caret informed the Board of Regents last week that he will step down June 30, 2020, and will not seek a contract extension, the university system said. The chancellor works with the board to set goals for the state’s 12 public universities.
“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,” Caret said in a statement released by the system.
In March, a panel of state lawmakers who negotiated final details on Maryland’s budget decided to cut $642,600 — an amount equal to Caret’s annual salary — from the University of Maryland system’s budget.
The action highlighted lawmakers’ unhappiness with an overall lack of transparency and accountability in the aftermath of a University of Maryland football player’s death last year. Lawmakers also criticized Caret for promoting a jewelry company’s charm bracelets in an email to three university presidents outside of Maryland in 2017, and his treatment of a staffer for raising an ethics concern.
State Sen. Bill Ferguson said lawmakers did not feel Caret demonstrated strong leadership in the aftermath of Jordan McNair’s death from heatstroke last year after a workout. The offensive lineman’s death prompted investigations into the football team’s medical staff and its culture under coach DJ Durkin. Upheaval in leadership began when then-Board of Regents Chairman James Brady announced Durkin would keep his job last fall. Outcry from students, players and lawmakers prompted University of Maryland President Wallace Loh to fire Durkin, and Brady resigned.
Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said Thursday that Caret, in his position of leadership, “could have prevented the scope of harm and the scale of the harm that occurred.”
“I think the point is that we don’t know what his role was, and as the chancellor of a system of such magnitude as the University of Maryland System, the chancellor should be leading in those conversations, not a simple passenger there for the ride,” Ferguson said. “It appeared that there were decisions happening and being made that could have been prevented with strong leadership.”
In addition to cutting the system’s budget, lawmakers decided to restrict $200,000 from the university system, unless the system’s office submitted a report to lawmakers any outside income the chancellor received in fiscal year 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The budget action came after The Associated Press reported in March that Caret’s chief of staff at the time in 2017 filed a grievance after Caret sent her a job performance assessment questioning her ability to continue in her job after she raised an ethics concern over the email Caret wrote on behalf of Pandora Jewelry.
Then-University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, who received the email, found the message so unusual that she wondered if it was a scam, and if someone might have been trying to fraudulently induce her to reveal personal information. So, she wrote Janice Doyle, Caret’s chief of staff at the time, to ask about it.
“I asked about the authenticity of the email because I was concerned that Bob Caret’s email account had been hacked or spoofed, or that I was being phished,” Sullivan wrote in an email to the AP in March, when asked about it.
Caret later reversed the negative performance assessment after Doyle told Brady she might have to file a grievance. But, without an apology or other assurance she would not face further potential action, she filed a grievance. In November, 2017, she agreed to a settlement signed by Caret.
Ferguson said he was particularly concerned about “the level of retribution” against Doyle, who “did the ethical thing in reporting and faced repercussions for doing the right thing.”
“That, to me, was extremely disturbing,” Ferguson said.