For the first time in almost two years a demonstration of leadership is emerging from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp took the bold, courageous and only step by resigning from his position effective at the conclusion of the current academic year. In the end, it was only Thorp who stuck his head above the fog that had descended upon and plagued all levels of UNC leadership – everyone from Thorp to Carolina trustees, UNC system president Tom Ross and the UNC Board of Governors. The fog is so thick, in May of this year Ross proclaimed the “situation” resolved. No one could look beyond their Carolina pride (21 of out of 32 voting BOG members are UNC alumni); make the necessary and tough decisions; the leadership failure is shared by all. Thorp’s decision is the appropriate one. He now understands the penalty of leadership.
The vacuum of leadership was deafening and destructive, not only to Carolina but to the entire UNC system. Ross, trustees and the BOG can regain the public’s trust by conducting an open and more transparent search for Thorp’s replacement. Bring the finalists to campus. Allow them to share their vision with the campus. Gain valuable community feedback.
The UNC system is no stranger to open chancellor searches. Appalachian State University chose their current chancellor in an open search. He and other finalists made public visits to campus, interacting and speaking with various university constituencies. Paul Gates, former ASU faculty chair and member of the search committee told The News and Observer in 2004 that, “It went off without a hitch. It gave us a second look at the candidates and how they interacted with each group. If they’re on thin ice at home, we don’t want them here.”