One on one with president Carter

By Alexandra Kukulka

After a bizarre turn of events between President Warrick L. Carter and Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, regarding her possible elevation to provost, Carter confirmed she has not been given the position after all.

Following a meeting with Carter Oct. 3, Love told her provost council that she would be named provost, as reported by The Chronicle Oct. 8. However, she made the announcement before Carter could make it official, which displeased him and he revoked his decision.

As Columbia’s president for the past 13 years, Carter has spoken at 12 commencement ceremonies and expanded and restructured the college throughout the South Loop. Although he was initially expected to retire in 2014, Carter announced May 8 he would be stepping down in August 2013.

The Chronicle sat down with Carter to discuss Love’s current position, reminisce about his time at the college and talk about an award he recently received.

The Chronicle: What is Love’s current title?

Warrick L. Carter: No changes have been made [with Love’s title as interim provost]. When changes are made, they will be made based upon the procedures as described in the faculty handbook and other documents. Any new provost will have to go through that process. Clearly, it’s in the best interest of the college for the new provost to be chosen by the new president. That process of choosing a new provost should wait until we have chosen a new president.

Did you originally plan to elevate her to provost?

I had made a statement to my cabinet that I had the intention of removing the word interim from her title, but there were some things that I had to get done first before doing that. I didn’t have a chance to do those things because the announcement was made the next day.

So she announced it?

I wasn’t there, and I am only going by what I read. The information that I had shared about my intentions had been described in another way.

What did you have to do prior to removing “interim” from her title?

I was going to have a discussion with the Faculty Senate and the [department] chairs to let them know my intentions, and to give them some sense of why I thought it was important to just change the title and not change the procedure [of searching for a provost]. She’s actually functioning in the capacity [of provost], and [the title] gets to be very confusing sometimes when we are dealing with people external to the institution who don’t have a sense of understanding these terms. We are doing a lot of work in China, and Louise has been very active in that work. The Chinese do not understand what interim means. It frightens them to think they are doing all of these deals with a person who is going to vanish very soon. We wanted to give some sense of consistency in terms of what is going on in the institution. That change of title would have been fine for that, and I would have had those discussions with the Faculty Senate and with the chairwoman of chairs, but those discussions didn’t happen.

Why else did you want to remove the “interim” title?

She is doing the job and has been doing the job effectively for a good period of time. It wouldn’t change anything in terms of what we do to search for a new, permanent provost. It was just the removing of one word from the description of what she does. In most cases, the word “interim” is used for very short appointments. This will end up being an appointment for about two years, and you very seldom find someone in an academic environment with a title “interim” for long periods of time. Since the Faculty Senate, [department] chairs and I agreed that she would be in this position for two years, it didn’t make much sense to continue with this title of interim when she was carrying out the responsibilities.

What made you change your mind regarding her title?

The announcement of appointments is the responsibility and the job of the president, and no one else has that responsibility. It is not their news; it is my news. I just decided that I would no longer follow that direction, and we would retain the title “interim” until we find a new [president].

Can you comment on the change of senior administration?

We have this motto that is “Create Change.” In other words, we are saying we embrace change. You get to a point—both the institution and the person leading it—that they both need different things. As much as I love this place, it is right for me to leave at this time. [Allen Turner], the chairman of the board of trustees, indicated that he would leave when I left, so he is doing that. Eric Winston, [vice president of Institutional Advancement], had indicated the same thing. In his case, it is always the right decision because the new president would want to choose who their development person is going to be. In many cases, they bring [that person] with them. It’s only the provost position that has a very specific description about how that search should happen, and it’s only really on the academic side of the house that we prescribe how chairs and deans are going to be searched for. But for the other parts of the institution, there is no such requirement.

When will the new president take over?

I would imagine that the college will find a new president and announce that sometime this spring. The new president and I will work out when I will vacate, and they will take over probably sometime during the summer. They shouldn’t wait until a reporting date on Sept. 1. They need to be here during the summer. She and I—I always say the new president will be a she—will work together to determine our overlap and so forth.

Some people at the college believe the board of trustees has been micromanaging things to a certain degree. Can you comment on that?

No, I don’t think that they are. The administration is still responsible for the institution. The board is very involved in the choice of the new president. That’s a board responsibility. It’s probably the most important thing the board ever does, choosing its leader. The board is very active in making sure they do that correctly.

What is your favorite moment of your tenure?

I am proud of the way we have become student-focused and how we treat students. It wasn’t always the best. I am always proud of commencement in terms of the way we celebrate the accomplishments of our students. I am proud of the quality of the faculty that we have developed over the years. We have increased the size of the full-time faculty by 100 new faculty [members] since I have been here, and they are outstanding. I am proud of the buildings we have [bought] and spruced up. You wouldn’t recognize the place the way it was before.

Do you have any regrets?

I probably do, but I don’t want to make them public. You know, we all have regrets.

How does it feel to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan State University?

I received [notice] from the president of the university and the president of the alumni association back in the summer, indicating that I had been chosen as one of five alums to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award. It knocked me over. I didn’t know it was coming. I had no idea that I was even being considered or who may have put my name forward. Michigan State has hundreds of thousands of alumni, and they have chosen five this year. And I am one of those five. So the lesson there is that you do what you are going to do in your profession, you do it to the best of your ability and somebody may be watching. You are not doing it because everyone is watching you. You are doing it because that’s what you should be doing.