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President Barker Announces Retirement

President Jim Barker officially announced his retirement from Clemson University this morning and will become an Architecture faculty emeritus member in the days to come, once a successor has been named. He has been President since 1999 and spearheaded the debatable Top 20 Initiative to make Clemson one of the best public universities in the country. Clemson’s public rank rose to #22, up from #38.

Clemson release:

CLEMSON — After nearly 14 years serving as the 14th president of his alma mater, Clemson University President James F. Barker has announced plans to retire from that position and return to the classroom.

“Last week, I asked the board of trustees to begin a search for the 15th president of Clemson University. I have pledged to remain until the new president is on board. I will then begin preparing myself for my next career as a faculty member in the School of Architecture,” he said.

“There is never a perfect time for a transition in leadership, but certainly a very good time is when a university is in high demand, able to attract outstanding faculty, staff and students, enjoys strong support from alumni and friends, is financially healthy, and has a strategic plan that is firmly supported by its governing board. That is exactly where Clemson finds itself today,” Barker said.

A 1970 Clemson graduate, Barker was named president in 1999 with a mandate to lead Clemson into the top ranks of American universities. At his inaugural address in April 2000, he said: “I am convinced that there is no university in America stronger than Clemson when we are ‘One Clemson.’ A united Clemson is unstoppable.” For his leadership, Barker has received the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, and has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina State University, and Mars Hill College. Board Chairman David Wilkins said, “It is difficult to find words to express how much Jim Barker has meant to Clemson University. Clemson is a far better institution today because of his leadership, vision and dedicated service. We know that there is no replacing Jim Barker, only succeeding him.”

A native of Kingsport, Tenn., Barker received his bachelor of arts degree from Clemson in 1970 and his master of architecture and urban design degree in 1973 from Washington University in St. Louis, which also recognized him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the Institute for Urban Design. Clemson now ranks among the nation’s top 25 public universities in the US News guide to “America’s Best Colleges” and has been recognized for value, affordability and return on investment by Kiplinger’s, Smart Money and Bloomberg Businessweek magazines.

During Barker’s presidency, Clemson has added more than 48,000 alumni, set records for student SAT scores, retention and graduation rates, launched the Academic Success Center and raised more than $1 billion in private funding since 1999. Research expenditures surpassed the $100 million a year mark, and more than 1,400,000 square feet of space has been constructed or renovated, including projects on and off campus.

Clemson also launched major economic development initiatives, including the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville, the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston and the Advanced Materials Center in Anderson County.

Barker also led Clemson through a period of deep state funding cuts, reducing administrative and staff positions by nearly 12 percent without layoffs. According to metrics established by Bain & Co. Financial Services, Clemson is financially healthier today than before the recession.

“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve my alma mater as president for nearly 14 years. I look forward to becoming one of Clemson’s most loyal and active volunteers,” Barker said.

When Clemson finished the first $500 million of the Clemson Fund Initiative, we began to hear more rumors of an impending retirement, or that Barker’s duties would be somehow lessened and more focused on the fund. Clemson stands at $691 M in the $1 Billion initiative.

As you know, he recently had triple bypass heart surgery, so the timeframe to step down was probably accelerated by this major event.

I went to his initiation ceremony in the Amphitheater when the transition was made from Deno Curris. When he was hired, he pledged to make Clemson the best academically and athletically, saying that Clemson should strive to reach 2 Final Fours in basketball, a BCS football championship, and the CWS over the next decade. In 14 years, the closest we ever came to a basketball title was a first four NCAA win. The closest we came in football was a single ACC title, and a final four appearance for Leggett’s Tigers. It is our belief that Barker has in fact held back the athletic programs at Clemson for most of his tenure with penny-pinching and by tying the hands of Terry Don Phillips. He seemed to resent that the athletic programs could draw in so much money and that he couldn’t get that cash for his improvements. He changed his tune in later years to the wish that Clemson become “reasonably competitive” in sports, a drastic change from the high goals he set forth a decade earlier.

So I am not sad to see him go.

It was Barker who ordered TDP to give Tom Bowden the new contract when Arkansas made a small overture. TDP was ready to let Bowden walk, or test to see if Arkansas was serious about him, which his contacts said was not the case. Barker called him and told him to give Bowden the deal that we’re probably still paying off. He held back other facilities campaigns intentionally to entice folks to donate to the Clemson Fund. The only reason TDP even held his job through the mess following the 6-7 season was because the Board found out how Barker had held back our athletic programs. It is not a coincidence that we announced a $50 million facilities initiative within a month of that fiasco. Those plans were sitting on a desk collecting dust before you all hounded the Board and forced change.

Jim Barker has done wonders for the academic standing of the University, which is still where his evaluation should primarily lie, and where folks 50 years from now will judge him. The Top 20 Initiative is a great goal to have and one I support, but I’m not going to restrict the programs that put our brand on TV to advance it. I wouldn’t restrict academic programs for the sole purpose of advancing sports either. I didn’t support every shady tactic I’ve seen over the years to raise our ranking. We all know and have heard of the manipulation of numbers to fit Clemson into higher rankings for the US News & World Report’s Index of factors.

5% of the USNWR rankings are determined by the percentage of alums who are giving back to the university. This is metric that's designed to see what kind of connection the University has with its graduates.

At one graduation, Clemson handed out an envelope with two dollars and a place on the back for students to sign their names and addresses. The people giving the money to each student asked us to then "put it back in the bucket as a way of making our first donation to Clemson's alumni fund".

Clemson sunk to giving money to people to donate in order to satisfy this portion of the rankings. It racked up 100% of those graduates for the sake of the survey, while actually creating no new wealth for the university.

Clemson cut class sizes with 20-25 students to classes with 18-19 students to get under the 20 student/faculty class size in the rankings index. This forces them to increase large classes to extreme levels.

Clemson raised faculty salaries by 20K, which by itself I do not disagree with, but it comes at the expense of the student and parents. Clemson’s tuition increased by 50% in just my 4 years there when Barker took the job, it’s considerably higher now. Faculty pay is one of the indices.

He also eliminated numerous majors and cut programs from the curriculum altogether. Barker’s AARC heavily restricted Bowden before fan outrage caused a change (Compliance Director Becky Bowman has also retired). There are no JUCO enrollees in football because of Barker’s changes in how Clemson accepts transfer credits, and that there are no easy majors to hide them in. I’m sure you remember Dwight Jones, a WR who was accepted to UNC after Clemson would not admit him for academic reasons. There were numerous other cases during those years before the AARC was disbanded.

Barker has walked the fine line during his time here, and by no means is Clemson the only school that bends the numbers to benefit its rankings academically. While I am being very critical, we still have made progress that we should not lose sight of.

My point is that going for the Top 20 is a fine goal and something the academic side should be working towards always, but I would never have hampered our athletics programs for the sake of it. We can do both, but Barker did not seem to realize this until it was spelled out for him over the last couple years. It was your concerns that got raised up after the 6-7 season, and lit a fire under some asses to affect change in Sikes and McFadden.

Clemson is expected to hire from within for the Presidency, but as long as the new President sees that athletics is an asset and not a hindrance, we can continue to make progress here and keep everyone happy.