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Here’s what the process of looking for a new chancellor looks like

New Chancellor History

Portraits of former UNC chancellors line the walls of Wilson Library on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Carol Folt gave her final remarks in a Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, her last day as chancellor of UNC.

Though she is no longer in office, the University administration does not yet know who the interim chancellor will be. Interim UNC-system President Bill Roper met with the faculty executive committee on Wednesday to discuss potential interim chancellors to help the University function smoothly in the absence of a permanent chancellor.

“This will be a rapid process, a thoughtful process, with wide consultation and so on, but this is not the same thing as the process to select a permanent chancellor for the University,” Roper said Wednesday. 

At time of publication, an official announcement regarding the interim chancellor had not yet been made. 

“I’ve talked to Bob Blouin, the provost, and said, ‘Bob, if need be, I will be turning to you to ask you to serve until we get this in,'" Roper said at the Wednesday meeting. "Furthermore, as a number of people have suggested, he might be the person to be interim chancellor.” 

At Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting, Roper said to expect a decision by the middle of next week.

The process under which Folt was approved required the University’s BOT to recommend three candidates to the UNC system president, who would then nominate one of those candidates to the UNC-system Board of Governors. Folt’s selection committee consisted of 14 members, including several BOT members, the student body president and the chairperson of the faculty at the time.

Prior to Folt, Holden Thorp was also chosen as chancellor by a selection committee in this manner in 2008. However, even at that time, there was widespread concern about representation on the chancellor selection committee.

The selection process changed in October of 2018, which included new policy on selection committee membership. Per the policy, a BOG member will no longer serve on the committee. Additionally, the new policy addressed the confidentiality of chancellor selection.

“The key players are the Board of Trustees, the president of the University system and the Board of Governors,” said Ferrel Guillory, a professor in the School of Media and Journalism. “It’s a very political system in the sense that it’s about a public office at a public university, so a lot of people will weigh in with their opinion.”

Guillory has served on the North Carolina Education First Task Force and has also written about education leadership and policy, authoring “Education Governors for the 21st Century." Guillory acknowledged the uncertainty of the timeline for interim and permanent chancellor selections.

“I can speculate, but we don’t know,” Guillory said. “We’ve had interim chancellors before. You don’t know the length of interim and it’s a very human process that involves people making big decisions in their lives of where to live and what kind of role they want to play.”

This particular chancellor selection is occurring after previous UNC-system President Margaret Spellings resigned after serving three years and Folt’s expedited resignation.

Earlier this month, former BOT members signed a letter condemning the BOG for their hastening of both Spellings and Folt's resignations. In both current and previous process, the BOG has played a significant role in the determination of UNC-system chancellors.

“There will be an extraordinary amount of public attention on the search for the next chancellor, both on campus and off campus, state attention and national attention,” Guillory said. “And it’s a big deal because this is a tumultuous time for public universities.”

Guillory emphasized the importance of chancellor selection to the Carolina community.

“We all have a stake, both faculty and students on campus, but also the North Carolina public has a big stake in preserving and strengthening our public university for our economic and civic vitality in this state,” Guillory said. 

With her departure, Folt will leave several loose ends for her successor to pick up. Although Folt authorized the removal of Silent Sam's pedestal in the same email which announced her resignation, a plan for the future of the Confederate monument still needs to be presented to the BOG by March 15. 

Under Folt, UNC also launched "For All Kind: The Campaign for Carolina," the largest fundraising campaign in the University's history and the second largest campaign among the country's public universities. Since its inception in 2017, the campaign has raised $2.46 billion, more than half its overall goal of $4.25 billion, with four years remaining in the campaign.

The new chancellor will also face a number of administrative vacancies yet to be filled, including that of Winston Crisp, the former Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, who unexpectedly announced his retirement in October 2018, and Mark Merritt, the former general counsel and vice chancellor for the University, who retired in December 2018.

In the Jan. 25 meeting with the Faculty Executive Committee, Roper emphasized the need for an interim chancellor, will need to be already familiar with UNC.

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“I believe that it is very important that the interim chancellor be someone that is well known in this community and the surrounding area,” Roper said. “We want somebody who can be engaged from day one.”


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