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Top equity officer Ann Penn announces retirement

After spending 30 years helping collegiate institutions comply with federal requirements, Ann Penn will retire at the end of July.

Penn has served as the director of the University’s Equal Opportunity/Americans with Disabilities Act Office since 2006, trying to promote accessibility and equity in all areas of UNC.

She worked as acting Title IX coordinator until April, and most recently, Penn assembled the Sexual Assault Task Force charged with examining the University’s policies involving handling complaints of sexual assault.

Former Chancellor Holden Thorp announced Penn’s plans to retire in an email last week and said Chancellor Carol Folt will appoint an interim director while the University searches for a replacement.

Penn served on the task force until its last meeting June 10, when she abruptly left halfway through because concerns were raised about her involvement in the group’s discussions.

Terri Phoenix, director of UNC’s LGBTQ Center, said at the meeting that the involvement of someone in Penn’s position was problematic because her office is ultimately responsible for implementing the group’s recommendations.

But Penn said her retirement, which will take effect Aug. 1, was unrelated to that situation.
“I’m used to difficult meetings,” she said. “I had made the decision weeks ago.”

Christi Hurt, chairwoman of the task force, said the group is now evaluating its own dynamics, and she does not know how the group will change without Penn.

“What we will be doing from here on is working to move forward,” Hurt said.

Penn said she was proud of the programs her office has initiated under her leadership, including training sessions on sexual harassment, making facilities more accessible and appointing the task force.

Rudy Jones, associate director of the Equal Opportunity/ADA Office, said he agreed with Thorp’s remarks.

“I think she has done a fine job in moving things forward at this University,” he said.

Penn said retirement would be a change of pace from the demanding position.

“It is full retirement,” she said. “I have absolutely nothing to do.”

Penn said she will miss the University, but she will miss the work even more.

“It’s been great,” she said. “Working with people and helping them get their problems addressed has been the best part.”

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