Group of UNC professors calls on chancellor to resign

Posted February 11, 2021 11:28 p.m. EST
Updated February 12, 2021 3:47 p.m. EST

— In a letter released Thursday, a group of professors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill called for Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz to resign.

The local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, says there have been several breaches of trust and dishonesty displayed by the chancellor and his associates.

Michael Palm, president of UNC-Chapel Hill's AAUP chapter, said there are about 70 members who voted to release the letter. The decision wasn’t unanimous, he said, but it was overwhelmingly supportive.

“There’s nothing he can do for the good of UNC other than step down," Palm said. “[These are] serial breaches of trust from the chancellor, and I think we’re at the point now where we need to hear an explanation.”

Palm said the lack of trust and honestly from the chancellor partially stems from the UNC System's plan to turn the "Silent Sam" Confederate monument over to the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which faculty members believe was an immoral decision.

“[When] the decision to pay the Sons of the Confederate Veterans came out, the faculty, students and staff at UNC ... the entire community was outraged at that decision," Palm said. "The chancellor’s response was, 'We didn’t know about it. We didn’t have anything to do with it.' But now it turns out that one of the highest-ranking officials at UNC was involved in those negotiations.”

A judge later threw out the deal, but the future of the statue that protesters toppled on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus in August 2018 remains in limbo.

Palm also cited Guskiewicz's decision to open campus to students last fall, despite the Orange County Health Department's recommendation to remain online.

“Our concerns then were primarily that the leadership at UNC, including, but not only, Chancellor Guskiewicz, were literally making life-and-death decisions based on politics rather than ethics or the science,” he explained.

"Chancellor Guskiewicz is doing a fantastic job in leading our university, and he has my complete confidence," UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees Chairman Richard Stevens said in a statement.

The school responded to the calls for the chancellor’s resignation, writing that Guskiewicz values his relationship with the Orange County health director and respected her decision to send the letter to the university.

The chancellor responded to the Silent Sam concerns in a long letter to students Thursday, writing in part:

"I was aware discussions were occurring through the UNC System, and I learned that the specific terms of the settlement were nearing completion shortly before Thanksgiving … The hard truth is that the threat of the monument returning to campus was very real. Let me be clear, my unwavering priority was to permanently remove the monument from campus, and I believe the system office and the five board of governors members heard that loud and clear from our campus community, as well.”

The university also stated the chancellor has demonstrated his commitment to his job over his 25 years at Carolina.

Palm said AAUP members hope their letter will garner support, or at least more clarity, on what’s really been going on.

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