Caret underscores importance of higher education in address to Faculty Senate

By William Perkins

Justin Surgent/Collegian

Robert Caret, the president of the University of Massachusetts, yesterday underscored the importance of higher education in the state and highlighted a six-point plan he’s unveiled in an effort to move the University system forward in an address to the school’s Faculty Senate.

Caret – who was appointed to his post July 1 and was formally inaugurated in a ceremony in Boston on Tuesday – told the members of the legislative body that he’s been trying to work with state legislators to find different ways to boost funding for the five-campus school system.

“We really need to make higher education a higher priority,” said Caret – the former president of Towson University in Maryland – who noted that that when he was in Maryland, he worked with lawmakers on a plan that increased support and student enrollment while temporarily freezing tuition costs.

And in an effort to increase support and awareness for the UMass system, Caret hammered in a plan of six themes at yesterday’s meeting that he hopes will help the school system progress in a several aspects – ranging from increasing student success to continuing to educate pupils for the workforce to increasing the number of research projects and dollars at the school.

He also said that he wants to highlight the efforts of members of the school community that help to improve social well-being in their communities, present the University as being a good steward with the dollars and funding it receives and spread the word of the school to those across the state in an attempt to “tell and sell UMass.”

“We don’t want to be ignored,” said Caret, “they’ve taken us for granted for too long.”

In addition to addressing members of the Senate, Caret also took questions from members yesterday pertaining to what he’ll do to move the University system forward.

In response to a question posed by Sen. Randy Phillis – an associate professor of biology and the president of the Massachusetts Society of Professors, the main faculty union on campus – regarding how he would be able to increase the size of the flagship school’s faculty, Caret said that it would be imperative of the University to increase resources in order to do so.

“We’ve got to find the resources or re-align what we’re doing,” said Caret.

And in response to a question posed by Sen. Max Page – a professor of history and architecture – regarding if he would consider any options negating the University’s decision to move the school’s football team into the Football Bowl Subdivision in the Mid-American Conference, Caret noted that the decision to switch had already been made on campus level, but noted that he would watch to see how it plays out. The move to switch into the higher division has received some criticism from some in the Senate, who have contended that the program would require more University subsidies.

“That [was] really a campus decision,” Caret said. “Basically, that decision has already been made. And we have to see from a business plan if that works.”

Fresh off a four-day bus tour that took him around Massachusetts to talk with local government and business leaders in several communities, Caret said that he found those he met with to be supportive of the University and its initiatives.

“We should all feel good … that we really do have support out there,” said Caret, who noted that he came away from the tour will several ideas on how to improve the system.

William Perkins can be reached at [email protected]