Walter “Ted” Carter has just moved from Annapolis, Maryland, to Suffolk, Virginia, and it looks like he will move again soon.
Negotiations evidently have started in the University of Nebraska Board of Regents’ effort to secure Carter as NU’s next president.
“They’re working on contract details with him at this point,” Regent Bob Phares of North Platte said this week.
Phares said interim NU President Susan Fritz will finish the year as leader but Carter might start to transition into the job next month.
Carter, former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, hardly denied that he’s ready to launch into a new challenge.
He had expected the challenge to be with an East Coast software company, but that changed when he was asked to apply for the NU system’s top job.
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“Obviously, I don’t want to get ahead of what the Board of Regents will do,” Carter said by phone this week. “Nothing’s happened yet. … We’re just making sure that we’re being respectful of the process.”
By state law, the regents had to name only one person as a finalist for the presidency.
A 30-day public review process, ending Sunday, was also required after Carter was named the finalist. The regents’ next regular meeting takes place Dec. 5, and Carter’s confirmation is expected then.
Carter said that his tour through Nebraska during the 30-day review went well and that he and his wife, Lynda, liked what they saw and heard.
Now, he said, he’s reading up on history of the university and Nebraska, including the 2017 book “Atlas of Nebraska.”
Some faculty members in the NU system aren’t delighted about the prospect of Carter’s presidency, but disgruntlement hasn’t been loud. Kevin Hanrahan, president of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Faculty Senate, said views of Carter are mixed.
Among UNL professors who responded this month to a survey about their views of Carter, the most common response was “support with reservations,” Hanrahan said.
The UNL and University of Nebraska at Omaha chapters of the American Association of University Professors expressed concern this week about Carter’s view of leadership. The chapters said in a letter that Carter’s experience is in military, top-down leadership, and not “shared governance (with faculty) at a major state university like NU.”
The letter asks the regents and Carter to permit the appointment of faculty regents. The letter also asks that the four faculty senate presidents (at UNL, UNO, the NU Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Kearney) be involved in searches for top leadership.
Carter said in a text Thursday that he wants “to make shared governance work” toward “what is best for students and faculty.”
Carter, 60, has no doctorate and didn’t take a conventional path to university leadership. Trained at the famed Top Gun fighter pilot school, Carter holds the American record for the number of landings on aircraft carriers.
The Naval Academy graduate has what amounts to a master’s degree in the Navy’s nuclear power program. In time, he led the Naval War College in Rhode Island, then the academy in Annapolis.
While he was superintendent of the academy, administrators fired a controversial English professor, Bruce Fleming. The AAUP sent Carter a letter saying Fleming hadn’t received a fair hearing under AAUP guidelines.
The AAUP’s opinion carries extra weight at UNL because the organization has officially censured UNL for its dismissal of a graduate student-lecturer in 2018.
Carter has said he respects the AAUP and the importance of academic freedom. He will work to get UNL removed from the censure list, he said.
The reason the Naval Academy conflicted with the AAUP, he said, is that the Navy simply has different protocols and procedures from those of a traditional college. Carter also said another administrator, not him, fired Fleming.
Hanrahan said UNL faculty members are also upset that only two professors (plus two deans and an associate dean) served on the 23-member presidential search committee. Furthermore, he said, the 30-day review process has been inadequate to vet Carter and to submit an opinion that reflects the mixed views at UNL.
But the opinions that matter most are those of the regents, and they have cheered Carter.
“I think he’s going to be phenomenal. He’s a leader’s leader,” Regent Rob Schafer of Beatrice said. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself” over getting Carter, he said.
Regent Elizabeth O’Connor of Omaha said she has been impressed with Carter.
“I like him,” she said. “I think we would be very lucky to get him.”
Regent Barbara Weitz, also of Omaha, said Carter displays leadership, integrity, skill and concern for students’ well-being. Weitz, a member of the presidential search committee, said all the members of that committee liked Carter.
“I think it was a pretty emphatic nomination,” she said.
And Regent Jim Pillen of Columbus said he was pleased by Nebraskans’ response to Carter’s public appearances.
“The response has been thumbs-up,” he said.