“I say all this in concern that when we leave the room, we’ll leave the problem.”
Following Thorp’s brief appearance to address the crowd, which welcomed him with a standing ovation, more than 300 faculty members voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution that calls on UNC-system President Thomas Ross to decline Thorp’s resignation.
The emergency meeting was the first of its kind in the University’s history, said Chairwoman of the Faculty Jan Boxill.
The Nelson Mandela Auditorium of the FedEx Global Education Center was packed with faculty members singing the praises of a chancellor whose time in office they believe should be far from over.
“In the difficulties of the present moment, Holden Thorp still remains the best person to the lead the faculty through these challenging times,” Boxill said.
Michael Gerhardt, a distinguished professor in the School of Law, said Thorp’s openness and sensitivity is rare in a leader.
“No matter how this comes out, I hope you recognize that what we have in the chancellor is someone who believes in each of us and what we do here,” he said.
But faculty members said Thorp’s legacy extends beyond his sincerity.
In five years of tight budgets, Thorp oversaw a jump in federal research funding and a 24 percent increase in first-year applicants last year, among other points of growth.
But as Thorp prepares to step down, some faculty are concerned that his vision will leave with him.
Jane Thrailkill, a professor of English, said she is worried Thorp’s replacement will not provide the same emphasis on supporting faculty.
Thrailkill said she disagrees with criticism that faculty members are not best equipped to lead a university.
“We need a stakeholder in the institution, not just ideologues, politicians or business people,” Thrailkill said.
“Thorp is a chemist who understands the humanities,” she said.
Boxill said the idea to create a faculty resolution was sparked by a similar situation that occurred at the University of Virginia.
Following the firing of UVa. President Teresa Sullivan in June, an influx of faculty support caused the university’s Board of Visitors to reinstate her.
“I think what it shows is that the faculty can respond in a way that it ought to together,” Boxill said.
But whether that strategy will succeed in convincing Thorp to remain in office is unclear.
Thorp said that although he appreciates the faculty’s resolution, for now, he still stands by his decision.
“I’m appreciative of the resolution you will consider,” Thorp said. “But right now, my plan is to sit out there with you.”
“And right now, that looks really good.”
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