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Thursday January 20th

Op-ed: UNC Chancellor is facing pressure for new provost decision

<p>The back entrance to South Building is pictured through the Old Well on Oct. 17, 2021.&nbsp;</p>
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The back entrance to South Building is pictured through the Old Well on Oct. 17, 2021. 

Dear Carolina community: 

The search for a new provost is coming to an end, and the Chancellor is under significant pressure to make a particular choice. Based on the information that is being relayed to me by multiple sources, our trustees and the UNC System are dictating his choices to the point that he really has none to make.

As has happened before, some will call these “rumors” and say I deal in conspiracies. They are not rumors, and I deal only in the truth.

Over many months, the provost search committee has spent hours with a search firm going through dossiers from applicants across the country. That hard-working group brought in a slate of candidates, each of whom met with multiple campus constituencies. The search committee then made their recommendations to the Chancellor. We will all need to think carefully before saying yes to participation on an upper-level search at UNC unless we are comfortable with our dedication to a meaningful process being only for show.

I have spent much of the Thanksgiving holiday deciding whether to blow the whistle on this situation or cross my fingers and hope for the best. Our campus is finally calming down, some say. Better to let this fight go. All that is true. Indeed, every candidate I met has things to recommend them, although the differences are also clear.

But this is not about a particular person; it is a matter of process and shared governance. In any nonprofit organization, boards choose the CEO, and the CEO chooses their team through search processes that should be transparent to all. The Chancellor should make the choice of who is his second in command after receiving good advice from all rightfully involved. For me, I stand willing to support and work with whomever the Chancellor chooses as long as I know that it was his choice, freely made.

I hear so much about this powerful outside person or that one who “loves Carolina.” But I wonder what that means. Does it mean destroying an institution that has benefited the people of North Carolina and beyond for over 200 years? This place is not broken. It is under siege. If you love Carolina, leave it alone. When faculty, staff and students have administrators we trust and with whom we can openly communicate, we can solve any problem that comes our way. Interference by trustees, donors or the UNC System into searches, particularly for the provost — the chief academic officer, the person who oversees all aspects of faculty life — devastates those relationships and undermines the chancellor’s ability and authority. Our chancellor must be able to choose his team in accordance with a standard search process.

With Lux and Libertas,

Mimi Chapman

Frank A. Daniels Distinguished Professor for Human Service Policy Information

Associate Dean for Doctoral Education

School of Social Work

Chairperson of the Faculty, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

@MimiVChapman

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