Chancellor Folt on last day: 'I did what I thought was best, and I'm at peace with that'

Posted January 30, 2019 6:16 p.m. EST
Updated January 31, 2019 3:26 p.m. EST

— Chancellor Carol Folt made remarks and said good-bye to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill community on Thursday during a Board of Trustees meeting.

Thursday marks Folt's last day as chancellor, but there's still no word on who will oversee the campus moving forward.

"I feel a little bit like a senior -- although I am graduating a little bit early," Folt joked on Thursday morning, calling the change exciting but bittersweet.

Folt resigned two weeks ago while also announcing the removal of the base of a controversial Confederate monument on campus. The statue part of "Silent Sam" was torn down by protestors last August.

She had planned to stay through graduation in May, but the UNC Board of Governors said she would be leaving by the end of January.

The chancellor spent part of Wednesday on campus saying good-bye to students. On Thursday, said she’s excited about what will be her own “new and next.”

"It’s been an amazing opportunity, and I look forward to being a part of the community in the future," she told the trustees. "I’m always a Tar Heel. Don’t know if I’ll be back on the faculty permanently, but it is something I would really treasure and enjoy."

Folt did bring up Silent Sam, saying, "I am at complete peace with my decision, and that’s important to me. Not everybody has to agree with what people do, but I did what I thought was best, and I’m at peace with that. I do believe that the wisdom in this room will find the right solution for this university."

Interim UNC President Dr. Bill Roper met behind closed doors Wednesday morning with the faculty executive committee to discuss possible successors to Folt.

"I've had lots of help from wise people, and I'm trying to make the right decision," Roper said after the meeting.

He declined to name anyone on his short list of potential interim chancellors or say when he would make a decision.

"I want to do this as soon as possible because I know the university needs to know what the path forward is," he said. "But I want to make the right decision. I don't have a specific timetable. I hope in the next few days, but we'll see."

Faculty members said they're grateful Roper sought their input.

"This is important not just for the university, but for the whole state," said Nancy Fisher, a research professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. "We want to make sure that everybody in the state is served with what we do for research and education and service."

Fisher said she and other faculty want someone who knows the university well and can work well with faculty, students, trustees and the UNC Board of Governors.

"I was very heartened to hear the kinds of things that [Roper] had to say and the kinds of values that he’s relying on in terms of this decision," said Cary Levine, an associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History.

Roper has said the interim chancellor will lead UNC-Chapel Hill for up to 18 months as a national search is conducted for a permanent successor. The temporary position will bring challenges, including controversy over Silent Sam.

Faculty members said they hope whomever Roper selects can juggle those challenges and do what's best for the school. "Give faculty a voice. Give faculty a seat at the table when big decisions are being made, and really, again, take this university forward in a very difficult terrain," Levine said.

Folt ended her remarks Thursday morning with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt: "I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I’ve envied a great many of people who led difficult lives and led them well."

She then received a standing ovation.