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Faculty Council holds emergency meeting over fears about removing Guskiewicz

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The Faculty Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday, July 14.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the way a person voted on the resolution. The article has been updated with the correct vote. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

The Faculty Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday about fears that the Board of Trustees, Board of Governors and others are planning to remove UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.

“I would not ask you to do this unless I believed that the situation was dire and in need of immediate consideration,” Faculty Chairperson Mimi Chapman — who called the meeting Tuesday — said.

Chapman said someone told her on Saturday that they were alarmed after attending a meeting where names were floated for an interim chancellor to replace Guskiewicz. She did not name the source of the information during open session.

Among the names were Clayton Somers, UNC’s vice chancellor for public affairs, and John Hood, a conservative political commentator. Chapman described them as “at best, controversial choices.”

Somers was involved in negotiations between the UNC System and the N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans about Silent Sam, which came to light after the 2020 DTH Media Corp. lawsuit against the System and the BOG was settled in February. John Hood is the chairman of the board at the John Locke Foundation — which was co-founded by BOG member Art Pope, a conservative North Carolina businessman and millionaire.

When Chapman reached out to Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin on Sunday, they said they had heard the same information from other sources. UNC is in the midst of a provost search after Blouin announced he was stepping down in May. This is one of many roles the University is currently seeking to fill.

Chapman said a faculty member close to some trustees had told her Wednesday that Guskiewicz’s performance would be evaluated in the coming days.

Despite circulating information about the Chancellor’s removal, Chapman said UNC faculty have not been involved in the conversation.

Chapman admitted that Guskiewicz is “not perfect,” but that it wasn’t a good time for a change in leadership.

“He is someone we know,” Chapman said. “Many of us have served with him for many years, and he could not have assumed his post at a more difficult moment.”

‘A lot of smoke’

The BOT met earlier Wednesday to elect new members. None of Guskiewicz's recommendations for membership were accepted, Chapman said during the Faculty Council meeting.

She also named other BOT actions that were cause for concern, such as members wanting to re-examine tenure, as reported by NC Policy Watch.

“That is a lot of smoke in my estimation for there to be no fire,” Chapman said.

The Faculty of Color and Indigenous Faculty Group recently made statements that are not in support of a leadership change. Other groups, including Carolina Black Caucus the Employee Forum, are also meeting to consider the issue, according to Chapman.

“Outside groups are also mobilizing, and I believe other important constituencies important to the University will be making a case for stable leadership,” she said.

After meeting in closed session to discuss details of why the BOT wishes to remove Guskiewicz, the Faculty Council re-entered open session to discuss possible actions.

Resolution on chancellor hiring

During open session, the Faculty Council passed a resolution affirming their support of Guskiewicz and emphasizing the need for faculty influence during the chancellor hiring process.

The Faculty Council discussed the issue of shared governance — that the Board of Trustees had not consulted the Faculty Council for any of their recent decisions — and that an immediate change in leadership would have impacts on not only UNC’s campus but also the state of North Carolina, before drafting a resolution.

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Once its preamble has been finalized, the resolution will be posted on the faculty governance website and then presented to the BOT, Chapman said.

UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media associate professor Deb Aikat, who serves on the Faculty Council as an elected member of the UNC Faculty Executive Committee, abstained, with 12 others, during the resolution vote, saying it was a preemptive move based on rumor. He also noted that comments from faculty of color regarding the resolution were being ignored.

Matters such as Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenure application, he said, did not receive as much of a response from the Faculty Council.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Aikat told The Daily Tar Heel Wednesday. “I want proof.”

Amid all of the news coming out of UNC recently, Aikat said it was important to continue amplifying the voices of faculty of color.

“Several faculty members who are of color started reaching out to me and saying thank you for speaking up,” Aikat said. “We are not inclusive in our decisions.”