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Group of UNC faculty calls for chancellor's resignation after Silent Sam revelations

Palm said this statement was motivated by a “pattern of lying that can’t continue" from UNC's administration.

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.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors is calling on Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz — and other UNC administrators who have contributed to “UNC’s pattern of institutional dishonesty” — to resign.

“The serial dishonesty displayed by the chancellor and his associates regarding the most sensitive and important matters confronting the University in recent years has eroded our confidence in UNC's leadership,” the statement, posted Thursday, said.

The statement follows the revelation that Clayton Somers, vice chancellor for public affairs at UNC, took part in negotiating the Silent Sam settlement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, in apparent contradiction to Guskiewicz’s earlier assertions that UNC administrators were not involved in the deal.

Guskiewicz said at a December 2019 Faculty Council meeting that he had no involvement in Board of Governors' negotiations. At the same meeting a group of students marched onto the floor and chanted "reparations, retract or resign" when Guskiewicz was introduced. 

Michael Palm, the president of UNC’s AAUP chapter and a professor of communication, said this action around the settlement is on its own “outrageous." But Palm said this statement was motivated by more — a “pattern of lying that can’t continue" from UNC's administration.

The statement cites a series of breaches of trust by UNC’s administration, including the new findings regarding the SCV settlement, the timing of the release of the report of Clery Act violations and the decision not to publicize the recommendations of the Orange County Health Department about the fall semester.

“I think our hope is that it might galvanize the UNC community’s refusal to accept this behavior from our administrators and it might help generate some accountability from Guskiewicz to the students, faculty and staff at UNC as opposed to the BOG,” Palm said.

Guskiewicz said in a 2019 Campus Safety Commission meeting that the University was not able to release the Department of Education's report on the Clery Act until the legal process had been resolved. He sent a campus message about the OCHD recommendations after news outlets reported the contents of the health director's letter. 

Vice Chancellor for Communications Joel Curran said in an email that the University is aware of the statement from "a small group of faculty about matters that we have addressed publicly many times."

“Chancellor Guskiewicz has demonstrated his commitment to the role of the faculty in our shared governance over his 25 years at Carolina, including eight years serving on the faculty leadership,” Curran said.

Palm said UNC AAUP members decided to write the statement at their Feb. 5 chapter meeting. Once the statement was written, it was circulated to all of the chapter’s approximately 70 members to vote on.

Though the vote was not unanimous, the results indicated that members were “overwhelmingly supportive” of the statement, Palm said.

Before making the statement public, Palm and the other two chapter officers met to discuss members’ concerns. He said concerns voiced were largely strategic, such as whether a resignation would actually help the situation if Guskiewicz were replaced by a UNC Board of Governors-appointed leader.

“My motivation for releasing the statement is largely based on the fact that I don't think it can be fixed,” Palm said. “I think part of the problem around here is that Guskiewicz needs to explain himself, but nobody's gonna believe whatever he says. So how do you move forward from that situation?

Since the Silent Sam settlement revelations, Chairperson of the Faculty Mimi Chapman said she has been hearing questions from faculty about what it reveals about what Guskiewicz knew. Chapman said she has told the chancellor that he needs to address the question through either a statement, video or speaking at next week’s Faculty Council meeting.

“Now we're at another moment where the administration needs to make a choice in favor of more transparency,” Chapman said. “And so that's what I'm hoping they’ll do.”

In a campus message Thursday, Guskiewicz provided additional details on the role he and his leadership team had in the settlement. Guskiewicz said that the UNC System and Board of Governors assumed full authority over the fate of the monument in December 2018 — where authority continues to stand.

In Guskiewicz’s email, he reaffirmed his previous assertions that he did not participate in the negotiations of the settlement. But he said he was aware discussions were occurring with the UNC System and learned the deal was nearing completion before Thanksgiving.

Guskiewicz also said at the request of the BOG, Somers worked with it to find a solution to keep Silent Sam off of UNC's campus. After it first appeared that legislative action may be taken, Guskiewicz said in the fall of 2019, he understood discussions shifted toward a resolution to permanently remove the monument from campus.

“Although the settlement proffered by the UNC System and BOG in November 2019 did not remain in place, I believe it was arranged by people who worked hard to find a solution and whose ultimate intention was to restore the safety of our campus and local community,” Guskiewicz said in the email. 

Sherryl Kleinman, an AAUP Executive Committee member and sociology professor, said in an email that Guskiewicz’s previous silence about the settlement and Somers' participation in negotiating the $2.5 million settlement spoke volumes. 

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Palm said he believes there is no way back from the lack of trust the UNC community has in the current administration and how it operates. 

“I think it's important to stress that this isn't just about getting rid of Guskiewicz,” Palm said. “It's about trying to move us toward an alternate approach to the future of UNC. And I see Another UNC Is Possible as being one potential pillar along with the Roadmap for Racial Equity from last summer.”