Thorp to step down as UNC-CH chancellor

Posted September 17, 2012

— Holden Thorp will step down as chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the end of the 2012-13 school year, the university announced Monday.

UNC's flagship campus has been beset by scandal for the past two years, including an NCAA investigation of the Tar Heel football program and internal probes of possible academic fraud in one department and questionable travel expenses by the school's top fundraiser.

“I will always do what is best for this university," Thorp said in a statement. "This wasn’t an easy decision personally, but when I thought about the university and how important it’s been to me, to North Carolinians and to hundreds of thousands of alumni, my answer became clear."

The UNC Board of Governors, which oversees the 17-campus system, met privately Friday with Thorp for about 50 minutes. He said afterward that the board didn't reprimand him for problems at UNC-Chapel Hill, noting that he's shown he's willing to act forcefully to clean up the problems.

"The chancellor is performing well by many measurements," Board of Governors Chairman Peter Hans said after Friday's meeting. "I think every chancellor is to be evaluated as we go along. He clearly has some issues on campus he needs to successfully deal with."

Former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Burley Mitchell, a member of the Board of Governors, said Monday that Thorp had become the face of damage control in Chapel Hill.

"Whether he caused (the problems) or not, you know, he's the captain of the ship," Mitchell said. "He has stepped forward and sacrificed himself, really, for the good of the university.

"I do believe at this point his leaving is for the good of the university," Mitchell continued. "I think it removes a target, basically. Chancellor Thorp had become sort of the lightning rod for the university."

University Day at UNC-CH October 12, , 2008 Scandals finally push UNC chancellor out

UNC President Tom Ross said in the statement that Thorp approached him Sunday to offer his resignation and would stay beyond June 30 if a successor hadn't been named by then.

"Chancellor Thorp’s love of and devotion to UNC-Chapel Hill are beyond question,” Ross said. “I have accepted his announcement with considerable sadness but fully understand he is acting in what he believes to be the best interests of UNC-Chapel Hill and the entire university. Whether you’re measuring the quality of its students, the productivity of its faculty or the benefits of its world-class research, Carolina has made great strides during his tenure.”

Thorp, 48, has served as chancellor since July 2008. He previously was dean of the school's College of Arts and Sciences, director of Morehead Planetarium on campus and a chemistry professor.

He will return to his work as chemistry professor and researcher after leaving the chancellor's office, officials said. Under his severance package, which is common in academia, he will maintain his $420,000 chancellor's salary for a year, and it will then be lowered to 60 percent of that as he returns to the classroom and laboratory.

Wade Hargrove, chairman of UNC-Chapel Hill's Board of Trustees, said he and other trustees tried to talk Thorp out of resigning.

"Holden has the full support of the Board of Trustees," Hargrove said in a statement. "I respect his unwavering commitment to always do what he thinks best serves the university. Holden Thorp has done an exemplary job as chancellor, especially in improving a wide range of processes and academic and fiscal management procedures.”

"He has given his heart and soul to the University of North Carolina since he was a boy," Mitchell said of Thorp.

UNC Old Well Thorp latest in UNC line to fall

Regularly ranked among the nation's top universities, UNC's reputation has been tarnished by the NCAA's findings that football players received improper benefits and by the ongoing investigation of irregularities in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, including altered grades and classes with little or no instruction.

Last week, Vice Chancellor for Advancement Matt Kupec and Tami Hansbrough, a major gifts officer at UNC-Chapel Hill and the mother of former Tar Heels basketball star Tyler Hansbrough, resigned from their jobs under suspicion of improper travel spending.

Thorp ordered an internal audit of the travels by Kupec and Tami Hansbrough after finding evidence that some of the 28 fundraising trips they took together since 2010 might have been "personally driven."

“Over the last two years, we have identified a number of areas that need improvement,” Thorp said in the statement. “We have a good start on reforms that are important for the future of this university. I have pledged that we will be a better university, and I am 100 percent confident in that. We still have work to do, and I intend to be fully engaged in that until the day I walk out of this office.”

Ross said Thorp can now devote his attention over the next nine months to making sure that the problems identified on the campus have been corrected and that the new policies, procedures and safeguards that have been implemented to prevent similar issues in the future are adequate and represent best practices.

Mitchell said the job of chancellor has grown far beyond overseeing academics, and he suggested that UNC-Chapel Hill's Board of Trustees look outside academia to consider a corporate chief executive as the next chancellor.

"I think this is the worst academic scandal we've had, but it's nothing we can't overcome," he said.


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  • weasel2 Sep 18, 2012

    The initial story stated that Thorpe would receive 1 year of regular pay after stepping down. Don't see anything mentioned here about it. If its true, everybody needs to work for the state if they can work and then quit but still receive a years salary.

  • DA unwashed Mob Sep 18, 2012

    So Thorpe flew with Kupec and Lucious Hansbrough.
    Was he the camera man?

  • StunGunn Sep 17, 2012

    I am deeply saddened that Chancellor Thorp has stepped down. I can't help but feel that he took the fall for issues that started before he became Chancellor and for issues he had nothing to do with. While this step is necessary in the healing process for Carolina, it is unfair and a sad day for the Tar Heel family. The only solice I can take is that Thorp will remain on the staff and teach, which was his original calling.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Sep 17, 2012

    lauradaughtryxx, thanks for the link!

    The good news just KEEPS flowing for NC State today, I tell ya!

  • lauradaughtryxx Sep 17, 2012

    CAROLINA43- Um, did you even go back and read whatever you typed before you posted it? That wasn't even English.

    Drop the "flagship" ridiculousness. Everyone is embarrassed for you BUT you.

    Oh, and that's why North Carolina State University made this list and Carolina is no where to be found, correct? Take your "flagship" school and shove it:

  • Six String Sep 17, 2012

    "To err is human, to find a way to blame others for the error makes one management material."

    Now that I've dried my tears and stopped laughing, do you mind if I use that at work??? I'm close to retirement, may as well get closer.

  • mpheels Sep 17, 2012

    me2you - I get what you're saying, but in this case Thorp was directly responsible for at least part of the mess. Tami Hansbrough was hired on his watch. He knew it was inappropriate for her to work under Kupec, but allowed her hiring in essentially the same position but with a different supervisor (in name only). Thorp was Kupec's direct supervisor, but was completely unaware of dozens of questionable trips. It is entirely possible the board of trustees instructed him to keep quiet and let things go (I actually fairly certain that did happen). Still, that does not save his job. Thorp is a nice guy, and a good teacher and researcher. He just wasn't a good chancellor. A good chancellor needs to be able to stand up to the board in private when needed, but put on a good public face at all times. Thorp isn't very good at either. He's been steamrolled by trustees, alumni, coaches... Then failed a PR and damage control.

  • me2you Sep 17, 2012

    How is he directly responsible for other people's actions? I don't get this mentality of ... fire whoever is at the top because people who are elsewhere in the university decide to be dishonest and deceiving.

  • 426X3 Sep 17, 2012

    So when he goes back to being a Chemistry Prof., will he keep the same pay?

  • blisstate Sep 17, 2012

    UNC's problems start and end with the board trustees, political appointiees infatuated with UNC sports and access. The resolution is to remove the politically corrupt board with one resolved to academic excellence and student achievement.