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Five of the 17 UNC System institutions currently looking for chancellors

20231206_Skvoretz_File-south-building.jpg

The South Building, Office of the Chancellor and other administrative offices, sits behind Polk Place on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.

Five of the 17 UNC System institutions are looking for new chancellors. The schools currently on the hunt are Appalachian State University, N.C. A&T, N.C. Central University, UNC-Chapel Hill and Winston-Salem State University.

Above-average term lengths, stress and a new System chancellor search policy have all contributed to the administrative turnover, Wade Maki, chair of the System faculty assembly, said.

He said the open chancellorships are not surprising given the departing chancellors’ tenures.

“If you have chancellors — 17 of them — and they are on a five-year cycle, you should always expect between three and four are going to be leaving,” Maki said. “What we have seen though are several chancellors who stayed a lot longer.”

Andy Wallace, director of media relations for the System, said in an email statement to The Daily Tar Heel that the current average longevity for a university chancellor is 5.9 years. That term length is down from 6.5 years in 2016 and 8.5 years in 2006, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Four of the five departing chancellors in the System are retiring after serving their institutions for upward of eight years. UNC’s Kevin Guskiewicz served the shortest amount of time in the role, with almost five years as UNC’s chancellor before leaving in January for the Michigan State University presidency.

Maki said in general, the chancellorship is a high-stress position.

“They're dealing with alumni, students, faculty, staff, communities, donors, people with all kinds of interests,” he said. “And if you add in campus politics, if there's a significant amount of politics on the campus, that can make the job just less desirable.”

Moreover, Maki said that some of the System institutions waited to search for a new chancellor until after the UNC Board of Governors approved a new chancellor search committee policy in summer 2023.

The new policy limited the number of committee members to 13 and required designated committee spots for the System president, two members of the BOG and a sitting or former chancellor from another System institution. 

Maki said he thinks the BOG made these changes because they wanted to be a part of the chancellor selection process from the beginning. Prior to this change, the BOG was not involved in the search process and was only responsible for voting to approve the proposed candidate.

“From their perspective, it was quite strange that you wouldn't start a process that you weren't involved in to hire somebody that you would supervise,” he said. “So they wanted to be kind of riding shotgun throughout the whole process.”

Maki noted that these changes to chancellor search committees create less room for diverse voices and typically limit the committees to one student, one faculty member, one staff member and three or four trustees.

Beyond stress and policy change, Korie Dean, a higher education reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer, said her reporting has suggested chancellors often leave their positions to escape the pressure of the national stage and to retire.

She said the chancellorship tends to be a late-career position, as potential chancellors usually work their way up within faculty ranks.

“It takes a while to work up to that position,” she said. “And I think just logically, by the time you get to that position of being a chancellor or university president, you don't have that many years left in your career anyway." 

However, she added this tendency is changing as leadership positions in higher education across the country are filled by non-academics.

For now, App State, UNC-CH and WSSU have appointed interim chancellors, while N.C. A&T and N.C. Central do not. According to an email statement from N.C. A&T’s media relations, their chancellor, Harold L. Martin Sr., had planned to retire at the end of this academic year but, instead of appointing an interim chancellor, he will continue in the role until the next chancellor is named.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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