University of Missouri set to introduce new chancellor

A top New York state university administrator hired to oversee the University of Missouri's flagship campus faces thorny challenges, including pending budget cuts and lingering racial discord that school officials have partly blamed for slumping enrollment.

Alexander Cartwright, the provost and executive vice chancellor State University of New York, will be introduced Wednesday as the Columbia campus' first permanent chancellor since R. Bowen Loftin resigned under pressure in November 2015.

A person familiar with the national search for Loftin's replacement confirmed Cartwright's hiring to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because that person wasn't authorized to discuss the matter before Cartwright's campus introduction.

Loftin and the Missouri system's president, Tim Wolfe, resigned amid protests, including a student's hunger strike and a threatened boycott by the football team, over the administration's handling of racial issues.

As the SUNY system's provost and executive vice since 2014, Cartwright's duties have included, among other things, overseeing policies pertaining to diversity and inclusion. According to his online SUNY profile, the Bahamas native introduced a "sweeping diversity, equity and inclusion policy" that applies to all 64 campuses, as he believes "an institution cannot achieve excellence if it not inclusive."

The Columbia campus' enrollment and revenue have dropped since the protests, with university administrators attributing at least part of that to negative public perception over the campus' racial acrimony. Preliminary figures show Columbia's freshman class this fall could be its smallest in two decades — roughly 4,000 students, down from 6,000 two years ago. Seven campus residence halls are not expected to reopen in the fall.

On Tuesday, the governing board of the University of Missouri's four-campus system voted to increase in-state tuition by 2.1 percent to the maximum amount allowed by a state cap. Out-of-state tuition varies, rising 2.1 percent at the Columbia campus to as much as 5 percent at the St. Louis and Kansas City locations.

Garnett Stokes, Columbia's interim chancellor, has said the tuition boost could raise an additional $7 million, making up for part of the expected $16.6 million in revenue losses blamed on the enrollment drop.

This month, Stokes proposed a 12-percent budget cut — some $55 million — from all schools, colleges and divisions on that campus in fiscal year 2018, eliminating up to 400 positions in the process. The university has more than 3,000 full-time employees.

Cartwright, with a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Iowa, is a research specialist in the field of optical sensors, his SUNY profile shows.

In November, he was among three finalists to become chancellor at the University of Tennessee's Knoxville campus.