Chapel Hill, North Carolina – The new chairman of the board of trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said on Wednesday that rumors of Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz’s impending demise were greatly exaggerated.
But Mimi Chapman, chair of the university’s faculty council, said Guskiewicz’s job had become so precarious that officials were scrambling to name a potential replacement.
Speculation that the new board would push UNC system chairman Peter Hans and the system board of governors to fire Guskiewicz was so widespread this week that the faculty board held an emergency meeting on Wednesday after- midday.
Chapman told colleagues at the meeting that she learned over the weekend that “Kevin’s performance will be evaluated in the next few days” by administrators and that officials are considering Clayton Somers and John Hood as possible chancellor. acting.
Somers is the UNC-Chapel Hill Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs and the Secretary and a former senior aide to State House Speaker Tim Moore. Hood is chairman of the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank, and chairman of the nonprofit John William Pope Foundation, both created by Republican donor Art Pope, a member of the UNC board of governors.
âI firmly believe that now is not the time to change direction on our campus,â Chapman said.
Dave Boliek, who was unanimously elected new chairman of the board on Wednesday, dismissed speculation about Guskiewicz’s job security, saying he did not know how the rumors started.
âThe board cannot hire or fire the chancellor,â Boliek said. “We set policies and make substantive decisions on behalf of the university in very specific areas. But the board does not have the power to remove the chancellor.”
He ducked when WRAL News asked him if he supported Guskiewicz, but noted that no one on the UNC board of governors or other university leaders had spoken to him about the chancellor’s employment status.
“The intention of this advice [is] to move the university forward, to do what is in the best interests of the taxpayers in the 100 counties of the state of North Carolina, to consider and work with the faculty, âsaid Boliek.
Guskiewicz declined to discuss the rumors.
“I have a job to do here at the head of this great university,” he said during a break from the board meeting. “That’s what I focused on.”
UNC-Chapel Hill has been plagued by racial tensions in recent weeks, evidenced by the fierce fight for a full professorship at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media for Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. A former student of UNC-Chapel Hill and reporter for the New York Times, she is best known for her work on Project 1619, which examines American history through the prism of slavery and its lasting impact on the country.
The previous board delayed the tenure vote for months, creating backlash among students and faculty, as well as reporters nationwide. Her supporters have called the lack of action on the issue racist, saying her work on Project 1619 was the only reason she was not immediately established, as others in her position had been.
Although the board of trustees voted 9-4 to grant Hannah-Jones the tenure on June 30 – the last day of the board of trustees – she later declined and held a position at Howard University, a university historically black in Washington, DC.
Boliek and John Preyer, who was elected vice chairman of the board on Wednesday, were two of four votes against the tenure.
Boliek declined to discuss his tenure vote, saying UNC-Chapel Hill must move forward.
âThe marketplace of ideas is what this university has always been, and we absolutely support diversity in faculty and diversity in students,â he said. “I think this board is ready to support faculty in recruiting diverse perspectives from all spectra.”
During the tenure fight, Guskiewicz was criticized by faculty for not openly supporting Hannah-Jones.
Still, Jay Smith, professor of history and vice president of the UNC-Chapel Hill section of the American Association of University Teachers, said firing the chancellor “would be a bad thing.”
“Although I’m not a fan of the way our chancellor handled it all [Nikole Hannah-Jones] situation, that would only be further evidence of interference in campus affairs. It wouldn’t be healthy, âSmith said.
Guskiewicz has also been criticized by faculty over the past year for some of the measures he has taken during the pandemic, such as reopening the campus last fall after local public health officials have it. not recommended.
The AAUP even called for Guskiewicz’s resignation several months ago.
âThere are a number of other things that he’s just been very, very secretive about and at times it seemed dishonest about the way he handled things behind closed doors,â Smith said. âBut shared governance calls on boards and boards to respect campus autonomy, to respect the voices of faculty and the wider university community. What if they step in and remove Kevin Guskiewicz now , arbitrarily and on their knees – in jerky fashion, because they don’t like the political outcome of this controversy, that would be a terrible violation of procedure. “
Professor Deb UNC Aikat said there is no motivation for change.
âWe all got together and we were determined not to want a change right now,â Aikat said.
Deans of various UNC-Chapel Hill schools sent a letter to the board expressing their support for Guskiewicz, Chapman said, and the faculty board drafted and approved its own resolution affirming their confidence in the chancellor. and declaring that a change of direction would be “deeply destabilizing” for the whole state, not just the campus.
âOur chancellor isn’t perfect, but he’s someone we know,â Chapman said. “He couldn’t have taken his job at a more difficult time.”
Even the controversial donor Walter Hussman, which some argue is the reason Hannah-Jones did not accept the tenure at A C, wrote a letter saying he believed Guskiewicz is the right person to run the university.
âI think he’s an honorable person, a person of integrity, I think he’s smart and thoughtful,â Hussman said.