It’s been nearly nine months since former Chancellor Carol Folt resigned in January, and UNC still doesn’t have a permanent leader at its helm.
To put it simply: past and present leadership has left much to be desired. With the search for UNC’s next chancellor now underway, here are some suggestions for whoever is brave enough to take the job:
- Be transparent. The UNC administration is notorious for its lack of transparency. But it’s been especially terrible at cooperating with the DTH. Last year, the DTH received major public records requests at the most inopportune moments, and Folt ended a longstanding tradition of meetings between the DTH and the chancellor. As both students and journalists, we deserve truth, access and a listening ear. Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz seems to be more willing to work with the DTH, at least marginally, and we hope that this will continue once an official successor is finally named.
- Be a leader. Folt’s refusal to make a concrete decision on Silent Sam until she was on her way out was, perhaps, her fatal flaw. Although the institutional framework placed clear constraints on Folt’s ability to act, she invalidated the concerns of students and POC by repeatedly failing to condemn Silent Sam and all it stood for. By remaining staunchly in the middle of the road, Folt displayed a clear lack of leadership when the University needed it the most. These decisions, however difficult, must be made. UNC deserves a leader who isn’t afraid to make them.
- Have the fortitude to stick it to the BOG when necessary. The BOG has long been known for its tendency to intervene in University affairs; oftentimes, it serves as a de facto extension of the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Rather than push back against the BOG’s tyranny, past leaders have opted for passivity, allowing the interests of the BOG, not students, to guide University policy. Moving forward, this must end; future chancellors must be an advocate for students on the topic of Silent Sam and other hot-button issues.
- Stand up for students. UNC is meant to be the “university of the people” — but right now, it isn’t. And for marginalized groups and students of color, it never was. Our next chancellor must, above all, advocate for students, staff and faculty as we attempt to reconcile with decades of systemic oppression. This begins with taking steps to make Carolina more equitable and inclusive for everyone.
- Acknowledge the role that racism has played in the University’s past and present and actively work to repair it. In February, after yearbook photos emerged of former UNC students in blackface, UNC said in a tweet that “racism has no place on our campus.” But it does exist here, in the places and spaces where the University has allowed it to fester. At UNC, racism is everywhere — from the enslaved and free Black people who built this University hundreds of years ago, to the dozens of buildings on campus that bear the names of white supremacists. Until last year, a statue dedicated to white supremacy stood on our campus. And it is largely because of student activists — not the University — that it no longer stands today. Acknowledging our history, rather than ignoring it, is instrumental.
We realize that being the leader of a storied public university is never easy, especially during such a trying time in the University’s history. As we stand at the intersection of who we are, who we have been and who we want to be, Carolina needs a strong, principled leader. It’s the only way we can hope to move forward.