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As Guskiewicz considers departure, some faculty are concerned over possible destabilization


Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz speaks in an interview in his South Building office on Monday, April 24, 2023.

UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz is the only candidate in the running for Michigan State University's presidency and is considering the job. Some prominent campus figures say they are not surprised.

Guskiewicz was named as UNC's 12th chancellor and 30th chief executive officer in 2019 and has led the University through the COVID-19 pandemic, the denied tenure of Nikole Hannah-Jones, the acceleration of a School of Civic Life and Leadership and a campus shooting, in addition to other campus events and controversies.

“Chancellor Guskiewicz has done a good job of leading Carolina through some of the most challenging times in its recent history and it’s no surprise that he would be on anyone’s shortlist elsewhere in the country to strengthen public higher education,” UNC System President Peter Hans said after a Nov. 16 UNC Board of Governors meeting.

James Moeser, who served as University chancellor from 2000 to 2008, said there have been tensions between the Board of Trustees, the N.C. General Assembly and the chancellor — which could have contributed to Guskiewicz's consideration of a departure from the University. 

MSU governance politics

Teresa Woodruff became MSU's interim president in August when former president Samuel Stanley Jr. resigned after the handling of a Title IX report involving the former dean of MSU's Eli Broad College of Business and incurring tensions with the MSU Board of Trustees.

Stanley resigned from the presidency in October 2022 and said in a Youtube video message to the MSU community that he had lost confidence in the university's BOT.

"I cannot in good conscience continue to serve this board as constituted," he said in the clip.

MSU is conducting an external investigation into allegations that board chair Rema Vassar violated board bylaws and university policies.

UNC governance politics

Mimi Chapman, faculty chair from 2020 to June 2023, said UNC has also faced tensions within governing bodies.

Guskiewicz has been in a "fairly precarious situation" for a long time, she said, adding that there could be "pushes and pulls" affecting his decision to potentially leave UNC. 

Chapman said she had "very credible information" that Guskiewicz faced possible termination after the UNC BOT denied Hannah-Jones tenure in 2021, but he avoided the "attempt" through the support of faculty and many outside campus community members. 

Guskiewicz has gone far in the search process with MSU, which Chapman said requires “a lot of time and energy.” 

“You don’t usually do that if you wouldn’t really consider leaving,” Chapman said.

Current Faculty Chair Beth Moracco said some UNC faculty worry that Guskiewicz's absence would be “destabilizing” for the University if he chooses to become president of MSU.

“We recognize his leadership has been very steady during a very difficult and tumultuous time for the University,” she said. “With the acknowledgment faculty doesn’t always agree with his decisions, there is a deep concern of the detrimental effect it would have on the University.”

Moracco also said faculty should be involved with any selection for interim and permanent chancellor.

“There is some concern we might not be involved and that would be really detrimental because faculty have a unique perspective,” she said.

What’s next?

In a statement to The Daily Tar Heel, UNC Media Relations said that if necessary, an interim chancellor would be appointed by the UNC System president.

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An advisory committee and the UNC BOT, in consultation with the UNC System president, are responsible for the chancellor search, according to the University's policy regarding chancellor searches. 

The policy states that the entities should “undertake reasonable efforts to recruit and consider a diverse pool of exceptionally well-qualified individuals for chancellor vacancies, including candidates with leadership experience and a track record of success in the public, non-profit, or private for-profit sectors.”

UNC System interim president Bill Roper appointed Guskiewicz — then dean of the College of Arts and Sciences — as UNC’s interim chancellor in February 2019. 

The State News reported that after Guskiewicz became the sole candidate for the presidency, MSU faculty senate leaders sent a letter to their BOT on Nov. 17 pitching a 90-minute Q&A session with Guskiewicz in the form of a Zoom webinar.

MSU Black Alumni and the MSU Black Faculty, Staff and Administrators Association also requested an opportunity for university stakeholders to interview Guskiewicz in light of many race-related controversies during his tenure as UNC chancellor, including Hannah-Jones’s tenure denial and Guskiewicz’s denial of involvement in a controversial settlement with the North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans over the toppling of Silent Sam. 

Guskiewicz has “refused” to speak with MSU faculty leaders on the basis of scheduling issues, according to The State News.

@ashnqm | @abbypenderr

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Ashley Quincin

Ashley Quincin is a 2023-24 assistant university desk editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a university staff writer. Ashley is a senior pursuing a degree in English and comparative literature, with a double minor in media and journalism and composition, rhetoric and digital literacy.

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