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Here's what student leaders across campus have to say about Folt's departure

Putnam and Hernandez Student Leaders on Folt
Student Body President Savannah Putnam (Left) and President of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation Manny Hernandez (right) in the Carolina Inn following a BOT meeting Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Both leaders recently commented on the departure of Chancellor Carol Folt.

On Thursday, UNC said goodbye to Chancellor Carol Folt, who simultaneously announced her resignation and approved the full removal of the Silent Sam pedestal from McCorkle Place on Jan. 14. As of yet, neither the interim chancellor nor the eventual permanent chancellor to succeed Folt have been announced.

Folt started the final morning of her chancellorship with a goodbye email to the UNC community.

“And to you the students — I will miss you. Every day you have brought to me the joy of life unfolding, your delight in learning, your care for others, and, well, just plain fun," the email said. "So, thank you. Thank you all.”

No University administration members who have served under Folt were available for comment, according to UNC media relations manager Jeni Cook. But student leaders across many organizations had much to say about UNC’s first female chancellor’s resignation.

Student Body President Savannah Putnam said when she first came to UNC, one of the most exciting things was to get a selfie with the chancellor. Putnam said Folt will be known for fostering a sense of community.

“It was a really big thing to meet the chancellor and because she’s so personable, I think that’s what her legacy will be, is that she was here to work and to serve students in a capacity that I guess we hadn’t necessarily seen before,” Putnam said. “And while at some points, you know, those decisions that she made and the Board made were a little rocky but it’s all about fostering community with her.”

For Campus Y Co-president Alli Whitenack, Folt’s legacy is complicated. 

“She’s done a lot of good things but I think that, at least what I will remember her for and I think what my generation of student activists will remember her for, is systematically silencing us, systematically ignoring us and telling us to our faces that the violence that we’re experiencing and that we’re confronting on a daily basis doesn’t matter,” Whitenack said.

In a media conference call on Jan. 15, Folt said that her resignation and the removal of Silent Sam were unrelated. Putnam said this may be true for Folt’s mindset, but the UNC-system Board of Governors seemed to feel the two decisions were related when Folt’s resignation was pushed from May to Jan. 31. 

Putnam said she and student leaders from around 15 student organizations met with Bill Roper, UNC-system interim president, on Monday to discuss desired values in an incoming chancellor. Agency, proper prioritization of students, experience, transparency and being connected were the most important qualities for Putnam, she said.

“We want a chancellor who will be here to push the University forward, somebody who will listen to students and understand that students are the primary stakeholders on this campus,” Putnam said.

Manny Hernandez, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, also hopes for a chancellor who will invite students to the table, especially graduate and professional students, whose voices he feels are often pushed aside.

“It would be great to see a chancellor who is going to champion for all students, especially for graduate and professional students, who will look at the unique situations and lifestyles that we live and come up with solutions that are positives for all of us,” Hernandez said.

Whitenack said the incoming chancellor will have to work to rebuild within a student body that has lost trust in the administration.

“You’re always going to be criticized by people, and it’s really a matter of who you’re comfortable being criticized by,” Whitenack said. “You know, are you comfortable being criticized by white supremacists? I’m okay with that. But someone else might not be, and that tells you something about their character. And so I think that the new chancellor’s going to have to deal with and kind of reconcile who they’re willing to accept criticism from and who they want to work with.”

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