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Three major changes in UNC leadership this year

UNC-system president Margaret Spellings may leave the system soon, according to multiple sources.

UNC-system president Margaret Spellings may leave the system soon, according to multiple sources.

The past year has seen a lot of turnover in leadership within the UNC and UNC-system administration. Three people stepped aside from their positions, with one taking the interim role of another who left.

Margaret Spellings

Margaret Spellings announced her resignation as UNC-system president in October. Though her contract does not expire until 2021, Spellings decided to leave under a mutual agreement with the Board of Governors. She will step aside on Jan. 15 and assume a consulting role until March 1, 2019.

“North Carolina was very fortunate to have someone like Margaret Spellings here for three years, and she’s done a lot of good while she was here,” said Jason Tyson, director of UNC-system Media Relations.

Spellings’ 2015 appointment, made official after the BOG kept its search and hiring process private, was controversial. Protests formed in response to her background as Secretary of Education under George W. Bush, involvement in the for-profit University of Phoenix and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.

This spring, Spellings toured eight campuses in the UNC system as part of her State of the University Address Tour. She released a self-evaluation report, which stated the system’s goals to ease the transfer process from community colleges and to decrease average in-state tuition for all UNC-system schools.

During the fall 2018 semester, Spellings implemented the N.C. Promise Tuition Plan, which significantly reduces tuition costs at Elizabeth City State University, UNC-Pembroke and Western Carolina University.

Under Spellings, the UNC system also adopted a new logo meant to unify all system schools.

In 2017, Spellings rolled out Higher Expectations, a five-year strategic plan for the system. In 2018, following the mandated timeline, the system emailed a survey to all alumni on file, asking about their undergraduate experience and preparedness for life.

After analyzing Spellings’ performance, the Board of Governors gave her a $95,000 bonus this year on top of her $775,000 salary, which was already a significant increase from that of her predecessor, Tom Ross.

Spellings said that she does not know what she wants to do next, but told The Daily Tar Heel in a recent interview that she has at least one reason to stay in the state. 

"I did buy a little beach cottage in Bald Head, and I’m really hoping that I can get a J-O-B so I can pay for it," Spellings said. 

She leaves with a unanimously approved separation package consisting of a $500,000 separation payment, $35,000 in relocation expenses and a $77,500 executive retirement contribution.

The Board of Governors has already appointed an interim president, Bill Roper.

Dr. Bill Roper

Roper was hired as interim UNC-system president after an emergency meeting of the BOG just one week after Spellings’ resignation.

Prior to Spellings' resignation, Roper was slated to step down as CEO of UNC Health Care and Dean of the UNC Medical School in May 2019, which would have been his 15th year in the role. He will assume the role of interim president of the UNC system beginning Jan. 1.

Roper was recommended for the position by the BOG’s Presidential Committee because of his history of service to the school and because the fast turnaround after Spellings’ resignation required someone already familiar with the system, Tyson said.

Tyson said there is little precedence for an interim president, but Roper can still exercise the full responsibilities of the president. The BOG has not begun a search for a permanent president. 

Roper has visited the systems office, and there is a general optimism about his arrival, Tyson said.

“He’s been a presence here since the announcement has been made,” Tyson said. “He’s been preparing for the role in a way that means he’s up to speed and ready.”

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In his career, Roper has expanded UNC Health Care systems, ensured that medical students practice in underserved communities across the state and developed safe healing spaces for people dealing with substance abuse, mental health and behavioral issues in North Carolina.

He received the North Carolina Award in November 2018, the highest civilian honor a person can receive. He was one of six people to be honored for his significant contributions to the state.

His former roles have not yet been filled. Spellings is currently reviewing two candidates for the CEO position who were found in a national search, said Phil Bridges, director of communications for UNC Health Care.

It is anticipated she will make a recommendation by the end of the year, after which the BOG will confirm her recommendation.

Winston Crisp

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp unexpectedly announced his retirement in October. Crisp has worked for the University since graduating from the UNC School of Law over 26 years ago.

In March of this year, Crisp created the Mental Health Task Force with the purpose of evaluating the needs of students and enhancing services on campus, citing the shortcomings of UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services. 

In September, WRAL released more than 800 pages of text messages, emails and voicemails to and from the UNC administration sent the night that Silent Sam was toppled. 

"You think they're gonna take that thing down?" Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Christi Hurt texted Crisp.

"One can hope," Crisp responded.

University sources confirmed that after Crisp’s retirement, Hurt was named interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs. She will continue in the interim role until a replacement is named. UNC has not begun looking for a permanent replacement, but Miller said they will announce the start of their national search before it begins.

Hurt has been assistant vice chancellor since 2014, and as interim vice chancellor she will continue her work supporting students through workshops, events and employment.

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