Harry Smith leadership hollow
Friday, January 18, 2019
Today (Tuesday) I was stunned to hear that Carol Folt will be resigning from her office as Chancellor of UNC Chapel Hill; but I was not as stunned as when I read the remarks made by Harry Smith, Chair of the UNC Board of Governors (BOG). In the wake of her announcement Smith stated that he was disappointed, and that her resignation “lacks transparency and it undermines and insults the Board’s goal to operate with class and dignity.”
As a student representative who has been invited to closed session meetings regarding Silent Sam, with Smith and UNC administration, I cannot recount the “class and dignity” that Smith speaks of. I have seen Smith talk down to students and to tenured faculty, discredit historians and talk over Chancellor Folt, all while operating under the guise of an education advocate. He continued this pantomime today, simultaneously jabbing at Folt while claiming, “to ensure that the appropriate stakeholders are always involved and that we are always working in a healthy and professional manner.”
These statements ring hollow. Similar remarks were made at meetings in December, yet faculty, staff, and students were unable to enter the December BOG meeting. Six weeks later, and we have yet to be invited to speak to the BOG to provide critical feedback from the constituencies most affected by this monument.
Admittedly, Chancellor Folt has missed the mark on several occasions during the disposition of Silent Sam, but how can you deliver on hollow promises handed down? Despite shortcomings, Chancellor Folt’s departure is not a time for the Board of Governors to take jabs. Instead, it is time for the BOG to fill those promises of involving stakeholders in a healthy and professional manner. It is also a time to reflect on what is best for a world-leader in public universities, a time to unite divisions that have long been sown, and a time to give thanks to a leader who has guided UNC Chapel Hill through a period fraught with challenges.