It was a rallying cry of many things.
Of support — for Chancellor Holden Thorp. Of distress — that he plans to step down. And of hope — that he might change his mind.
Hundreds of students, faculty and staff gathered on the steps of South Building Friday to show their support for Thorp after he announced his decision last week to step down as chancellor.
But the rally failed in one aspect: Thorp has not changed his mind.
“It means so much to me that so many of you want me to stay on as chancellor beyond this year,” Thorp said in a speech at the rally, when he showed up unannounced.
“But I am confident that it’s in the best interests of the University, and me and my family, for me to go back to the faculty next fall.”
And the crowd fell silent.
But organizers said they are still hopeful that, despite a scandal-ridden tenure, Thorp could change his mind.
“He didn’t change his mind right now, but I’m still really happy that he came and that we did this,” said Student Body President Will Leimenstoll.
In the meantime student leaders are discussing what they want to see in the next chancellor.
The heads of 30 campus organizations did just that in a meeting Sunday night.
Student leaders expressed support for a new chancellor with a commitment to academic excellence, affordability and accessibility, said Student Body Secretary Nikita Shamdasani.
Black Student Movement President Alexis Brown said she does not want a chancellor who is business-minded and who lacks educational ties.
“Bringing in someone like that to fix the issues is OK,” she said. “But what happens when the issue is fixed?”
Thorp’s appearance at Friday’s rally followed an hour’s worth of speeches and performances from students, faculty, staff and members of the community. Most speeches expressed support for the chancellor and urged him to reconsider.
Other speakers acknowledged the University scandals of the past few years.
“I won’t deny that the issues that surround the resignation are important, and they need to be addressed,” said Dr. Bruce Cairns, director of the Jaycee Burn Center.
“But they don’t define this University, and they don’t define the job that Chancellor Holden Thorp has had over the years.”
Mayor of Carrboro Mark Chilton said in an interview that he hoped Thorp would stay because he has maintained a strong relationship between the University and the surrounding area.
“Chancellor Thorp has done more than any single other person, from the gown end or the town end, to demonstrate the fact that the fates of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the University are tied together,” he said.
“What’s good for any one of them is good for all three.”
Regardless of Thorp’s final decision, organizers said they were pleased with the turnout.
Jackie Overton, chairwoman of the Employee Forum, said she was pleased with how the University came together.
“We are here to show our remorse for not stepping up sooner, to help shoulder more of his burdens, to deflect some of the negativity and to solidify our support for how we are going to move forward,” she said.
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