Disney daze: email raises Carter questions
By Amber Holst
An email message inadvertently circulated throughout the Columbia community Thursday generated storm clouds of controversy over last year's hiring of new college president Dr. Warrick L. Carter.
The Carter-penned email, which explained details about his financial and personal life, wound up in the inbox of Columbia staff and faculty because of a "computer glitch," according to college officials.
The email was intended for a loan officer at a Marietta, Georgia-based mortgage company.
At the center of this storm of controversy was information about Carter's employment history just prior to his association with Columbia.
What came to light was information that Carter was "laid off"-a term used in his email-from the Walt Disney Company around the same time he was vying for his current position at the college.
Carter was hired by Walt Disney Entertainment in 1996 to serve as Director of Entertainment Arts where his duties included developing global education and a live arts program for the entire organization.
In early 1999, Carter's job status at Disney in Florida changed from "employee" to “consultant,” according to Harris.
In Carter's resume and cover letter to Columbia's presidential search committee, as well as during his appearances and interviews at the college, Carter did not clarify any changes in his job status.
"We did not consider it to be misleading because we were aware of his circumstances," said Harris.
He admitted, however, that when Carter was being wooed by the college, he no longer retained the title of "director" at Disney.
According to a statement issued Jan. 12 by Harris, Carter's responsibilities at Disney remained "precisely" the same.
"Dr. Carter's situation at Disney never changed during the period we were interviewing or dealing with him," Harris told the Chronicle. "During the entire period, he was a consultant. The only issue was whether there was anything relating to the change in status from employee to consultant that in any way reflected negatively on him. And after investigation, it was clear that nothing did and therefore it did not appear there was anything to discuss."
What did change, Harris admitted, was Carter's financial compensation at Disney.
"The duties did not change," he said. "The compensation did change because he moved from an employee- which would involve normal employee benefits such as withholding, social security taxes and such-to being an independent contractor responsible for his benefits, taxes and so forth."
Harris said he was made aware of Carter's change in job status through an outside academic search firm, Educational Management Network. He said he didn't notify other trustees of the change because "it was at my discretion as to where to go from there."
The controversy for the most part failed to change the opinion of Carter by many of the college's administrators, faculty and staff members - some who were more upset that the school's email system was shutdown for several hours as officials tried to stop the errant email.
"My general impression is that it's not much of an issue," said Randall Albers, chair of the Fiction Writing department. "There was nothing in the email that would cause me to question his capabilities or honor."
"It is nobody's business as it relates to somebody's personal actions and the things they do-it's like the Bill Clinton situation," said Kimo Williams, faculty member of the Management department. "I don't think that it should be talked about in media in any way, shape or form."
As of late Friday, Carter failed to respond to the controversy and the only official statement was the one issued by Harris.
"I think largely he has been unavailable because he has been running around," responded Harris. "I don't think it is in any way an effort on his part to hide from this."
Prior to his employment at Disney, Carter served as the dean of faculty and the provost/vice president of academic affairs at Berklee College of Music in Boston for 12 years. He also has a background in Chicago education. From 1971 to 1984 he was a professor of music and the chairman of the division of fine and performing arts at Governors State University in University Park, Ill.
Carter, 57, is also a jazz percussionist who has recorded for Capital Records and appeared at the International Jazz Festival in Switzerland as well as many other venues.
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January 12, 2001
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