President Cartwright, faculty work together despite differences

Amanda Garrett

President Carol Cartwright’s relationship with faculty has weathered several ups and downs.

During Cartwright’s 15-year tenure, there have been significant accomplishments including eight years of record enrollment, increased fundraising and a stronger regional campus system.

But there have also been periods of strain, most recently in the university’s contract negotiations with the American Association of University Professors, Kent State Chapter.

It’s difficult to get an accurate gauge of faculty opinion, said E. Thomas Dowd, Faculty Senate chairman.

“There really isn’t any such thing as ‘the faculty’ opinion as a whole” he said. “The faculty is a wide variety of people with diverse opinions.”

Dowd said his own opinion of Cartwright went “from neutral to positive” when he became Faculty Senate chairman.

“I was very impressed when I had a meeting with her and rather than sitting behind a desk we sat at the same corner of a table,” he said. “That gesture showed me that she doesn’t have anything to hide.

“Our meetings have always been characterized by honest sharing and candor. Any differences we had we would work it out. We never worked it out perfectly, but it was always a good compromise. She’s bent several times when she really didn’t have to.”

All of the accomplishments of her presidency have been a result of partnerships, Cartwright said.

“All of the things we’ve done to create a better university have been a collaborative effort,” she said. “It’s been good strong teamwork, with good strong team members.”

Negotiations with the AAUP, Kent State Chapter, have been one of the more stained aspects of her tenure.

“I don’t think she understood the importance of the union when she came to Kent,” said Mathematics Professor Frank Smith, who is a past AAUP president and chief negotiator. “And in some ways I still don’t think she understands it.”

The latest contract negotiations with the union were the longest and most protracted in Kent State’s history.

“I don’t think any one of the parties involved is blameless in the situation,” Dowd said. “But I do think there was a slight residue of suspicion left behind, which is unfortunate.”

For her part, Cartwright said making tough decisions is a necessary part of her job.

“If I never made a decision that didn’t upset some people, I wouldn’t be doing my job,” she said.

Decreasing state financing combined with increasing state oversight have made the president’s job more difficult, Cartwright said.

“Since the early days of my presidency there have been significant changes imposed on us by the state,” she said. “In the past there have been cycles of intense change followed by a stabilizing period, but since the ’90s the changes have been relentless – one right after another. It’s very challenging to deal with.”

Cartwright said she is appreciative of the faculty response to her retirement.

“I’ve been very gratified by the entirely spontaneous outpouring of very positive cards and letters from the faculty since my retirement was announced,” she said.

Despite their difference of opinion on some issues, Smith, who has worked at Kent State for 35 years, said Cartwright compares favorably with past presidents.

“I would put her in my top two presidents of Kent State, maybe even a tie for No. 1” said Smith, who attends the same church as Cartwright and often chats with her at the grocery store. “I consider her a friend. I like her and enjoy her company – she’s a great lady.”

Contact academic affairs reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].