UNC students surprised, faculty heartbroken by Thorp's resignation

Posted September 17, 2012
Updated September 18, 2012

— Students and faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were stunned Monday by the sudden decision of Chancellor Holden Thorp to resign, and they had mixed reactions to the move.

Thorp, has served as chancellor of the UNC system's flagship campus for four years, plans to remain at the helm of the campus until next June, when he will return to teaching chemistry. UNC Academics Investigation Archive: UNC investigation

His tenure as chancellor has been marked by scandal, starting with an NCAA investigation of the football program two years ago. The university also has found evidence of altered grades and classes with little or no instruction in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, and two top fundraisers resigned last week amid questions of their travel expenses.

"It just makes sense to me because of all the scandals he was involved in," student Mohsin Shah said of Thorp's resignation. "It was probably a well-thought-out process."

Other students said they thought Thorp was taking the fall for problems that he didn't cause and has worked hard to clean up.

"A few people have just ruined it for the whole bunch. Obviously, he's getting way too much pressure and way too much blame for all of this," freshman Savanna Fitzgerald said. "I think it is ridiculous. I think it is shocking, not on his part but the fact that he has been pushed to this, and I think a lot of it has been the negative media."

Jan Boxill Faculty in tears over Thorp's decision

Will Leimenstoll Student body president: Thorp 'incredible advocate' for students

Thorp resignation reactions Chancellor's resignation stuns UNC campus

"I think, in light of the recent pressure that our university has been under, that he has handled himself extremely well and has done his best to show people that we are a university of academic integrity and not to compromise that integrity in light of a few leaders' particular actions," sophomore Jhenielle Reynolds said.

Jan Boxill, a philosophy professor and chairwoman of UNC's Faculty Council, said she and many of her colleagues were in tears Monday morning when they learned of Thorp's decision.

"I think he's just been beaten down," Boxill said.

Dozens of faculty members emailed Boxill to see if there was anything they could do to persuade Thorp to continue as chancellor. She said he's been a strong supporter for UNC-Chapel Hill.

"We've had serious budget cuts, and he has brought us through – his leadership has brought us through – those horrible times without us feeling it," Boxill said.

Chapel Hill Mayor and UNC alumnus Mark Kleinschmidt said he is sorry to see Thorp go.

"Holden just had a connection to the town and he just understood the tide would come in and raise us both," Kleinschmidt said. "He's not a chancellor who has been recruited from some far off land and just dropped off here to manage our university."

Longtime UNC President Bill Friday lauded Thorp's service to the university.

"Public service in our state, when well done, is a noble and distinguished service. Chancellor Thorp rendered this kind of service to us all and he gave us his very best. All of us owe him and his family our deepest gratitude," Friday said in a statement.

Student Body President Will Leimenstoll, who works closely with Thorp on campus issues affecting students, said he was disappointed by the resignation.

"He's been an incredible advocate for students throughout his tenure here. ... I have huge respect for him," Leimenstoll said. "He's very honest, and he'll give it to you straight. But it comes from a place of he's trying to help you do the best you can do."

Despite having to balance the needs of students, faculty, alumni and others, Thorp was always accessible, Leimenstoll said.

"I've never seen him act like he's exhausted, not have time to speak to students who needed his help," he said.

Still, some students said a new leader would help the school move past he scandals.

"With a new person, we could get back to our reputation, which would be great," junior Alexander Jackson said.

"He's definitely had a lot to deal with," student Anthony Rotunda said. "Obviously, he's making decisions for himself and for the betterment of the university. I have faith that this university is a lot bigger than one man. With him stepping down, we're going to be able to come back and do just as well as we have done."


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  • superman Sep 19, 2012

    Thorp has been in the system for many years. He knew or should have known what he was getting into. Most of the problems were of his making and design. He created those monsters and now he has to deal with his product. He even traveled with Kopec and Tami so he was well aware of what was going on. He needs to address the issue of travel. No one should be given a blank signed check and allow them to approve their own travel. I am sure he is a very nice person but he just was over his head.

  • DA unwashed Mob Sep 18, 2012

    UNC fundraising motto....
    Your momma sure does care about your education

    wiping the sweat off my neck and brow

  • Ken D. Sep 18, 2012

    As anyone who has ever been in Thorp's position knows, the need for developing reliable streams of money - lots of it - is what drives education in this country. Ours is a sports centered culture, and our universities have long recognized that they need sports to market their product. We are unique in the world when it comes to linking sports and education. And we are not the better for it.

    This culture didn't develop during Thorp's tenure, and it didn't just develop in Chapel Hill. He is just living every Chancellor's worst nightmare. It could happen to any of them.

  • cocker_mom Sep 18, 2012

    Tarheel Born- the facts are pretty clear - donations increase with successful sports programs. Witness this by who they just hired as fundraisers. Sports drive dollars and donations. Sports should instill a sense of pride - so it's not surprising that good teams make happy alumni, and happy alumni donate more. It's also not a stretch that sports is often the best way that people identify with their alma mater after graduation, and connect with other alums in the stadiums.

    HOWEVER - it's a bit of checken and egg - do the sports drive donations or do the donations drive the sports?

    And I do lead by example - I donate based on academic and research programs - NOT based on anyone's win / loss record.

    Lotsa hostility wrapped in Carolina blue today, eh?

  • DA unwashed Mob Sep 18, 2012

    My patent application for toilet paper with unc diplomas printed on it has been rejected. It has been deemed as copyright infringement. Too similar to the original.

  • Lucas Turner Sep 18, 2012

    Lets see, the football scandal resulting in the AD and Coach being fired. The academic cheating in the un-supervised African-American Studies program. Two murdered female students equates to an unsafe campus. The new fundraising scandal. The hiring of Tyler Hansbrough's mom is shady enough. The NCAA should probably look into that. And now, Thorp taking a $400,000.00 salary with him to a teaching and research position. This is nepotism, fraud, and un-ethical at its best. Yes, its time for him to go to include the teaching position but I guess UNC needs more scandal to cover up those that go uncovered. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • djofraleigh Sep 18, 2012

    Where is the professor who was the hands on staff in this fraud? Is he retired with full benefits yet? If so, then those who didn't fire him, charge him, should be replaced. To this point, who has been held responsible and accountable? Thorpe is leaving on his own, in honor, so it isn't him.

    Bottom line view from the outside: UNC wants this to just fade away, go away, with no consequences. Look Forward!

  • homefree Sep 18, 2012

    Just one more in line for the cover up and cheating over at UNC. It just continues to show. How many good people are going to lose there jobs over this cheating. Sad part is he has done his part to help with the cover up and continue to better the school. He is taking the fall for many, many other folks that started this mess years ago. UNC has to get into the mess and try to clean up once and for all.

  • wrsjjs Sep 18, 2012

    From public ivy to poison ivy! Geez, the flagship is a wreck.

  • jscott13 Sep 18, 2012

    Good. UNC has had too many scandals and, even if he didn't have firsthand knowledge of all of them, it was his job to know!!