Over two decades at UNC, law professor Tom Kelley has spent much of his time researching how institutions from Raleigh to Rwanda work and fail. Though recently, he has been unnerved by some governance decisions made much closer to home.
“I teach students, and I go out and make presentations on effective governance for nonprofit organizations, including educational organizations," Kelley said. "And what we have witnessed at UNC in recent years is an absolute prime example of ineffective governance, how to actually harm an institution."
Kelley directs the Community Development Law Clinic and the law school’s Institute for Innovation, the latter of which has a space in the heart of Chapel Hill overlooking the corner of Franklin and Henderson Streets. There, he reflected on some of the issues he may have to confront if he wins the election for a three-year term as chairperson of the faculty.
“It would be hard to be a member of this community and avoid the knowledge that we're in a time of — tumult,” he said.
Kelley said he worries that the Board of Trustees and Board of Governors have been too active in their efforts to reshape the grassroots of the University. While he is open to the idea of the School of Civic Life and Leadership, for example, he thinks it obvious that the process it has gone through has been “a disaster.” Kelley also said the new compelled speech policy is very likely unconstitutionally vague.
While he has his opinions about the current disputes on campus, he said his priority if he becomes chairperson of the faculty would be to amplify the collective voice of staff and students.
“I don't view the role as chair of the faculty as being to step into it and carry out my personal agenda. I just don’t think that's the nature of the position.” Kelley said. “What I do think the nature of the position is, is spending a lot of time listening.”
Faculty elections began on March 29 and will last until April 12. Kelley is one of two candidates for the chairperson position.
Landon Whitley is a third-year student at the UNC School of Law and has worked at the Community Development Law Clinic this year under Kelley’s supervision. Whitley praised Kelley as having a unique ability to be graceful and kind while also setting a high standard for his students’ work.