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App State chancellor steps down amid student concerns over free speech, LGBTQ rights

UNC Board of Governors Vice Chair Wendy Floyd Murphy, UNC Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey, and UNC Board of Governors President Peter Hans speak during the UNC Board of Governors meeting at the UNC System Office on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.

After serving for ten years in her role, Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri Everts tendered her resignation, effective April 19. 

On Monday, Everts formally notified UNC System President Peter Hans of her decision to step down, citing “significant health challenges” and a newfound focus on her personal well-being in a statement sent to students, faculty and staff. 

“I am incredibly proud of the growth and development of the university over the last ten years, and I look forward to seeing the development of the Innovation District and the Hickory Campus, in particular, and the many ways the region will continue to thrive with the benefit of these important state resources,” Everts said in the statement. 

The news of her resignation comes amid student concerns regarding free expression and inclusivity on campus. 

On March 28, students protested against unsafe working conditions within ASU’s Wey Hall, which is actively undergoing renovations. Several speakers also highlighted accessibility issues in East Hall, where several classes have been relocated as Wey's construction continues.

Students also organized several online petitions advocating against decisions made under Everts' administration. Concerns include that the renovation of ASU’s ‘free expression tunnels’ will limit student's free speech, the renaming of the university’s annual “Pride Week” to “Spring Fest” and the terminations of four genderqueer and transgender staff members in addition to five to six employees in the Title IX office. 

On April 8, the editorial board of The Appalachian, the University’s student-run news organization, published an editorial calling for the chancellor to take action and address student free speech and safety concerns.

“If student wellness was a priority, LGBTQ+ students would not feel an increasingly hostile environment as they feel their identities are erased at the university,” the editorial said.

After working at the University of Nebraska Omaha and Illinois State University, Everts was instated as ASU’s chancellor in July 2014. 

Some other notable markers under her tenure include initiatives to support underrepresented and first-generation students, increased sustainability efforts, record fundraising, the openings of the Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences and the App State Hickory Campus as well as the launching of innovative programs such as the Chancellor’s Innovation Scholars and the University Academy at Elkin. 

“Chancellor Everts welcomed a record number of students, celebrated numerous academic and athletic accomplishments, and led a physical transformation of the beautiful Boone campus,” Hans said in a press release. 

Hans said he will announce ASU's next interim chancellor by April 19.

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