We, the editorial staffs of The East Carolinian and The Daily Tar Heel, have come together to issue this joint editorial as a clear message to the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors.
As students of East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, our message is simple: the micromanagement of our campuses by the BOG have cost us our chancellors and isn’t acceptable.
Power often presents itself with unity. Because of that, both staffs felt it was important to join together and speak as one. We also hope that by speaking together, the gravity of our opinions are understood clearly by the BOG.
Our campuses share similarities. Both of our chancellors were forced out. The will of our Board of Trustees were circumvented and our communities were given no say over the change in leadership.
In ECU’s case, the speculation surrounding Chancellor Cecil Staton’s tenure as the 11th chancellor of ECU had been swirling for months, something ECU and Staton denied. Since November, public speculation of Staton’s resignation has consumed many Pirates’ minds.
Last week though, Staton claimed that he hadn’t initiated conversations regarding his departure, which had existed for months. Members of the ECU Board of Trustees and of the BOG went a step further stating that BOG Chairman Harry Smith played a part in Staton’s resignation.
“I think it’s no secret that the chairman of the Board of Governors has not been supportive of Cecil, now for (the) majority of (the) chancellor’s tenure on the board,” ECU BOT Chairman Kieran Shanahan said.
Former Chancellor Carol Folt’s relationship with the Board of Governors at UNC is an open secret. It’s contentious, one that’s defined by petty politics that is ultimately of greater importance to the BOG than the welfare of the students and faculty at the oldest public university in the United States. And it’s petty politics that has both tarnished the reputation of this University and formed a toxic environment for students from marginalized communities on campus.
We believe that, at least when Folt first arrived, she had the best intentions for this University. But the Board of Governors constantly kept her hands tied, unable to take substantive action regarding Silent Sam without hostility in the BOG. Former Board of Trustees members issued a strong statement regarding the BOG’s mistreatment of Folt. Charles Scott, famed UNC basketball player, said, “The way the board responded to (Carol Folt) was very petty and vindictive,” to Barry Saunders at the News & Observer.
When she finally did take action in January, ordering the removal of Silent Sam’s pedestal, it resulted in her resignation. The BOG went even further, accepting her resignation at the end of the month, leaving UNC without a permanent chancellor at a time when it needed a strong leader the most.
This proved everything to the Daily Tar Heel Editorial Board. Silent Sam clearly invoked violence, unrest and chaos on campus, regardless of how one interpreted its meaning and history. It was a distraction to the campus community and scarring to students of color. The chancellor has every right to defend their students, and Folt made the correct call in its removal.
However, the Board of Governors clearly valued politics and power more than preserving what has historically been a progressive, forward-thinking University.
When announcing his resignation, Staton said governance is messy and we agree that managing a 17 member university system is difficult. However, we staunchly disagree with the notion that decisions about specific university personnel should come from a body other than the university.
Simply put, to the members of the BOG, please refrain from micromanaging our campuses. You’ve cost us enough. Your encroachment on the responsibilities of university administrators and our BOTs shouldn’t be tolerated.
We, the editorial staffs of The East Carolinian and The Daily Tar Heel, support the UNC System and the valuable education it provides. As students of the system and the ones who will lead North Carolina to brighter days. We ask that all members of the UNC system work harmoniously with one another to create the best educational environment for us students and those in our communities.