Craig Barton, the Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), abruptly resigned on July 20th. An email from SAIC President Elissa Tenny claimed Craig’s departure was due to a desire to “pursue other professional opportunities.” This seemingly innocuous claim is quite odd when you consider the timing of the announcement: Barton’s resignation was effective immediately. It’s unlikely that a man with such a prestigious resume would resign to begin another job without putting in notice. It’s also unlikely that SAIC’s notoriously tight-lipped press office will ever allow the real circumstances of his departure to reach the student body (or their check-writing parents).
“Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
I am writing to let you know that effective July 20, 2018, Craig Barton will be leaving the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to pursue other professional opportunities. During Craig’s time at the School, he successfully oversaw development of NEXT, our new strategic plan, and provided leadership for the searches for the Dean of Faculty and the Dean of Library and Special Collections. We are grateful to Craig for his contributions to the School and wish him well in his new endeavors. In the coming weeks, I will announce an interim plan for the Provost position and anticipate that we will be launching a search to fill the position on a permanent basis.
In addition to the timing of the email, it’s interesting that the school fails to mention what professional opportunity Barton is pursuing. When Dean of Undergraduate Studies Tiffany Holmes’ resignation and replacement were announced, Barton released an email on June 28, 2018, saying in part: “Dean Tiffany Holmes departs the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) on August 10, 2018, to become vice provost for undergraduate studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art.” The email, which names Holmes’ replacement (Interim Dean Dawn Gavin), is more informative and thoughtful in a single sentence than the entirety of President Tenny’s about Barton. It’s clear that if an administrator truly resigns to “pursue other professional opportunities,” the school is very transparent and congratulatory, has a plan to replace that person and an exit strategy for them, and sets their departure date in advance.
Surely the Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs of one of the world’s most prestigious art schools — who made over $400,000 a year as of 2016 — would take an opportunity of a similar caliber; and if he did so, surely it’s worth mentioning in the email. It’s also known that Barton and President Tenny are close; Barton replaced her as Provost when she became President in 2016. There is nothing resembling a friendship in the email: no warm words, no sad goodbyes, no assurance that Barton will bring something wonderful to his new “opportunity.” If Barton were facing anything other than controversial circumstances (read: illness), even without naming the tragedy there’d likely be a “best wishes, good luck” intimation of compassion.
The Press Office
“Craig Barton left SAIC on July 20, and while we search for a new provost, a newly-formed Provost Council will share the duties of this position. The Council is made up of four members of the existing and previous academic administrative staff: Dean of Faculty Martin Berger, former Dean of Faculty (and current faculty member) Lisa Wainwright, Vice Provost and Dean of Community Engagement Paul Coffey and Associate Provost for Academic Planning Amy Honchell. This fall Rachel Weiss, faculty member and chair of the Faculty Senate, will chair a committee of faculty and staff to search for a new provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. While serving as provost, Barton oversaw the development of our strategic plan and provided leadership for the searches for the Dean of Faculty and the Dean of Library and Special Collections.”
SAIC’s press office still seems to doubt the ability of the student body to be receptive to honesty, unaware of how exponentially more suspicious opacity is than transparency. This leaves us with no choice but to consult the other side, the higher powers, the mystic forces who see into the mind of the universe: online psychics.
The Web Psychic Game
I thought that finding a digital psychic to give me a reading on Craig would be easy, but it was surprisingly tough. Most require a birthday to function and, unfortunately, Craig has not publicly listed his on his Facebook. Sadly, it looks like NOBODY has ever wished him ‘Happy Birthday’ on his timeline, either. While it’s entirely possible this is due to his privacy settings and my hesitancy to add him as a friend, usually people with birthdays (a.k.a., all people) leave some trace on their public profiles.
Anyways, without an accurate birthday to use, I had to guess. Barton completed his BFA in 1977, and if he was about 22 years old at the time then he was likely born in 1955. Using the first of the year 1955 as a birthdate, here’s what a web psychic game had to say about Barton.
“You tend to be very serious and responsible, thinking that duty calls first before all else … There is a great sense of ambition within you, perhaps because you feel unloved, unwanted, or inadequate … You need to feel secure in your own authority. Security needs are what drive you. You may be shy and insecure over your own worth and can be overly sensitive to real or imagined hurts. Sometimes you feel as though you have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. There’s one other thing that I am getting a feeling about, I’m not too sure about this but you have a brother, he should be careful with someone new he meets regarding money. Here are my predictions for your future:
- You will hear that there is a warrant out for someone’s arrest, something to do with a neighboring town.
- You will be pleased to meet someone.
- You will tell someone to smarten up.
- Your history will not repeat itself.
- You will be tossing something in to the air and catching it, only you won’t catch it and it will be lost.”
I hope that he knows about this brother. This psychic was perhaps the most useless part of this investigation, as I was not allowed to ask the psychic questions and was instead given the above text, which, aside from the embarrassing first paragraph, reads like an oracle from a Wild West soap opera.
Digital Magic 8 Ball
F Newsmagazine: Was Craig Barton fired?
Digital Magic 8 Ball: You may rely on it!
F: Was Craig Barton fired over the strategic plan?
M8: Definitely, no question about it.
F: Is Craig Barton “pursuing other professional opportunities?”
M8: As I see it, yes!
F: Will Craig seek revenge?
M8: As I see it, yes!
Shockingly, this is the most frank discussion I’ve been privy to regarding Craig’s departure. It’s not often that a computer replacement for a children’s toy with predetermined responses can hold a complex discussion about the resignation of a senior member of a world-renowned university’s administration.
Virtual Fortune Cookie
“Being alone and being lonely are two different things.”
Perhaps Craig needs the company of that long-lost brother.
Unless this article makes administration very, very mad — mad enough to release another statement about F News — I doubt we’ll ever understand the real reasons why Craig Barton moved on from SAIC so quickly.