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Uncertainty surrounds UNC administration as chancellor search begins

Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz

Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz fields a reporter's question during an interview in South Building on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. "I've heard students express concern over the distrust that they have with police... and I remain committed to ensuring their safety," Guskiewicz said.

Over six months after Chancellor Carol Folt resigned in January, UNC remains without a permanent chancellor. To add to the uncertainty, a handful of other administrative positions, such as president, vice chancellor for student affairs and chief information officer, are also held by interims. 

Board of Trustees Chairperson Richard Stevens announced a committee on Aug. 1 to begin the new chancellor search. The committee consists of students, professors, alumni and more, including several members of the Board of Trustees.

Stevens said the search process for a new chancellor usually takes several months — and that looking for a new chancellor will likely be the most important thing the Board of Trustees does all year. 

“The chancellor is the chief executive of the campus,” Stevens said. “That person will lead us for the next several years. That person sets the tone of the University. It’s a critical position in the University.” 

The committee will recommend candidates to the Board of Trustees, which will then recommend candidates to the University president, the position currently held by interim UNC-system President William Roper. The president will then conduct interviews and recommend a candidate to the Board of Governors. 

Though the search process has not yet begun, interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said he wants to be considered for the position. 

“I’ve said from the beginning that if things were going well over the initial six to eight months that I would look forward to becoming a candidate, and I feel as if we’ve done a good job,” Guskiewicz said. “We’ve got an amazing leadership team, and I’m looking forward to the search process.” 

Stevens said he hopes Guskiewicz indicates his interest in the position in a formal way once the process starts because he has, in Stevens’ opinion, done a great job as interim chancellor. 

Student Body President Ashton Martin is the only undergraduate student and one of two total students on the search committee of 20. Martin said she will wait to comment on potential candidates until the search begins, but she has enjoyed working with Guskiewicz in his interim role. 

Martin acknowledged that the large number of interim leaders could create challenges during the school year. Still, she said these leaders’ interim status can also be beneficial for the University. 

“I don’t want to pretend like it won’t be difficult because I know it will be difficult,” Martin said. “Interims always — they often have different ideas than someone in a more permanent position would have, but some of the best things about an interim is they can get some things done because they don’t have as many constraints.” 

Martin said she has seen an example of the benefits of an interim leader in her work with Guskiewicz, who she said has strong ideas that he has been able to run with. Guskiewicz began serving as the interim chancellor in the midst of the Silent Sam controversy, shortly after Chancellor Folt ordered the removal of the base of the statue and resigned from the University. 

“Certainly with the anniversary of the toppling coming up, we need to be sure that we have measures in place to protect our campus and make sure that it’s a safe campus environment,” he said. “I’ve been very clear about my position on the monument.”

The University named a permanent replacement for interim Police Chief Thomas Younce on Monday. David Perry will take over in September. The two finalists for the position were Perry and Gerald Lewis. 

Teresa Artis Neal, a newly selected member of the Board of Trustees with a background in media, will serve on the search committee. She said it will be important to her to listen to the other members of the committee and respect the search process when the committee first meets. 

“There was a lot of attention with UNC leadership, in particular Chairman Stevens, in making sure that a cross section of stakeholders are represented in the search committee,” Artis Neal said. “Because their voices are very, very important in this process.” 

The committee will meet in early September to discuss what is important in a UNC chancellor and develop a position description for the job, Stevens said. He said the committee will hold one or more forums to do this, taking into account the opinions of students, staff, faculty, alumni and community people. 


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