Kevin Guskiewicz, who has served as UNC’s interim chancellor since February, was named the University’s 12th permanent chancellor Friday as protesters stood outside in opposition to the recent Silent Sam settlement.
Guskiewicz was selected by interim UNC System President Bill Roper out of two candidates. The Board of Governors voted unanimously on him for the role. His appointment was effective immediately and his starting salary is $620,000.
Guskiewicz, well-known for his concussion research, is the founding director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center. He was dean of the College of Arts & Sciences before becoming UNC’s interim chancellor earlier this year.
Guskiewicz has faced scrutiny for his response to the recently announced settlement agreement between the UNC System and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which gives the group possession of Silent Sam and a $2.5 million trust for its preservation.
He sent a campus-wide email on the day of the announcement, expressing appreciation for the decision. He followed up on Wednesday with a letter to Roper and BOG Chairperson Randy Ramsey, asking that they ensure the trust is only used for the monument’s preservation.
"I join with others on my campus in stating that the values expressed by the SCV are inconsistent with and antithetical to the values of the University," Guskiewicz said in the letter.
Before the BOG met by conference call Friday morning to vote on Guskiewicz’s appointment, protesters gathered outside the UNC Center for School Leadership Development in opposition to the BOG’s role in the Silent Sam settlement.
Activists came out in the rain to speak against the trust that will be given to the SCV as part of the settlement.
Altha Cravey, a UNC geography professor who attended the protest, said she had heard that the BOG may vote on Guskiewicz’s appointment Friday.
“I’m really angry about that,” Cravey said. “I don’t think he has the support of the faculty. He refuses to say that this is an immoral decision.”
Graduate student activist Calvin Deutschbein said the settlement with the SCV is not just an attack on public education, but an attack on North Carolinians.
“It is an attack on all of us, and we need to treat it as such, and we need to understand what it is,” Deutschbein said.
Graduate student activist Lindsay Ayling said the BOG is scared of activists, and the group decided to meet via conference call to avoid demonstrations. She said this is positive news for their movement.
“Being afraid of us is not the same as actually listening to us and being accountable to us, but it is a start,” Ayling said.
Before the 9 a.m. meeting began, someone came outside and said those interested in observing the meeting could enter the building in groups of 10. He said there were 40 seats available.
Ayling replied that activists would operate on their own schedule.
“If they wanted to give us instructions and tell us when to enter a building, they could come themselves and confront us to our faces,” she said.
Minutes before the start of the meeting, someone made the announcement again, saying that there were 37 available seats left.
“We should be able to enter this meeting when we want to,” Ayling said. “It’s 8:53, so we have a couple minutes to tell the Board of Governors to fuck off.”
Deutschbein said the UNC System has larger spaces with teleconferencing abilities that they should use to allow more public access. He said the current system is meant to avoid scrutiny on the BOG.
“I do think that there should be pressure on them and accountability on them, so it’s frustrating that they make that more difficult,” he said.
The meeting remained open briefly. Once it went into closed session, activists marched out of the building. When the meeting went back into open session, the BOG voted to unanimously approve Guskiewicz as chancellor.
In an email announcing the decision, UNC Board of Trustees Chairperson Richard Stevens brought up Guskiewicz’s direction of the strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good, as well as his recent relaunch of the Tar Heel Bus Tour.
“Over the past 10 months, Kevin has guided this University with a stable and sure hand,” Stevens said in the email. “He believes in building this community and has held listening and learning sessions to help do so.”
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