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UNC talks Clery Act, grants $500k spending power to chancellor

Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz speaks at the final UNC Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting of the year at the Carolina Inn on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019.

Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and other University leaders gathered at the Carolina Inn this week for a meeting of the Board of Trustees, using the event as an opportunity to address the fallout from the recently-released U.S. Department of Education review that showed UNC violated campus safety laws from 2009 to 2016.

Guskiewicz said in a Monday email to students that an outside firm, Margolis Healy, would be on campus this week to asses and improve UNC’s policies when it comes to Clery Act compliance. The firm specializes in campus safety, security and regulatory compliance for higher education. By the end of Thursday, members of the firm had been on campus for three days, talking with campus stakeholders as part of the review process, UNC Police Chief David L. Perry said. 

The previous interim vice chancellor for student affairs, Christi Hurt, succeeded Winston Crisp after his retirement last year. She left the position in August and joined Margolis Healy as the vice president for strategic initiatives in September. 

“This week I sent a campus email out with the full results of the U.S. Department of Education’s six-year review of our Clery Act compliance from years 2009 to 2016,” Guskiewicz said at the meeting. “The results concluded, as you know, several violations.”

Guskiewicz said the review's findings were concerning and disappointing.

"When we don't meet the highest level of standards that we expect here at Carolina, that's problematic," he said, then added the University is working on a number of procedural improvements, following the completion of reports like the Department of Education’s.

"We can and must do better," he said.

A few weeks ago, a different report was completed that examined campus safety incidents and offered a number of recommendations for protocol improvements. Also, the Association of American Universities' Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct was released in October, and contained data Guskiewicz said he found “concerning.” 

One problem-solving tactic the administration has used recently is creating different commissions and task forces to look at specific areas of campus life that could be improved. 

The Campus Safety Commission was convened in May after disturbing public safety incidents last year and in the spring. Guskiewicz recently said he would hire two new faculty members to serve on the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward, which will serve as a replacement for former Chancellor Carol Folt’s History Task Force. 

Additionally, Guskiewicz said at the meeting that in the aftermath of the AAU campus climate survey, “our leadership team is convening a coalition of students, faculty and staff, to develop a comprehensive strategy for prevention and awareness that will resonate with the students.” 

Students who have worked as student advisors to the chancellor have said Guskiewicz is keen to gather data and listen to different perspectives before trying to tackle a problem, while they said Folt was more prone to an action-now approach. 

Guskiewicz said he sees an intersection between recommendations in the campus safety report, which was conducted by former FBI assistant director Chris Swecker, and the steps UNC needs to take in regard to the Clery Act review.

The Department of Education review said there was evidence "the administrative impairments documented throughout the program review process continued well into 2019," although the substance of the report pertained to the years 2009 to 2016. Guskiewicz said the hiring of Chief of Police Perry was an important step in improving the University’s protocol. 

Perry, in his first semester as UNC chief of police after many years at Florida State University, has served as a consultant for universities, helping them assess policies, procedures and practices. 

“I kind of know what they’re looking for, but I’m always open for continuous improvement. I think that’s what's important,” Perry said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to evaluate the positive strides that we’ve made. It’s also going to give us another positive boost forward in some nuances, because Clery is an ongoing educational process for campus public safety leaders around the country.”

Chancellor granted increased purchasing power

At the Thursday meeting, the Board of Trustees adopted a motion that grants significant purchasing power to the UNC chancellor. For any project with a price tag of less than $500,000, the chancellor now has the power to sign off on it individually, where as in the past such an expense would have required approval from the Board of Trustees.

Guskiewicz said the decision was made to move capital projects along in a more expedited way. 

“There are many projects that can be done within that range of $300,000 to $500,000,” he said.

Chairperson of the Board Richard Stevens said the move was designed to increase efficiency, as the Board meets only once every other month.

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“Projects come up,” he said. “When they come up, the chancellor and his team can just deal with them.”

The move was in line with state policy, as the Board of Governors decided in May 2019 to grant individual campus boards of trustees spending authority on capital improvement projects up to $750,000. UNC now has passed on that power to the chancellor with a more restricted budget.