Top 10 stories of 2012: No. 3
Reeling from wide-ranging academic and athletic scandals, Chancellor Holden Thorp shocked the UNC campus in September when he announced that he would step down in June to resume teaching duties in the Department of Chemistry.
Thorp, 48, said he was giving up the top job on campus after two tough years that saw the university’s academic integrity challenged amid embarrassing athletic and academic scandals, mostly related to the school’s football team.
In interviews Thorp, named chancellor in 2008, acknowledged that the university’s seemingly endless troubles in that area had begun to take their toll on him and his family.
He denied rumors that he was being forced to resign by either the university’s Board of Trustees or his boss, Tom Ross, president of the 17-campus UNC system.
“No one asked me to do this,” Thorp said.
His statement was confirmed by Ross and UNC trustees, who eventually adopted a resolution asking Thorp to change his mind.
Still, the timing of the announcement, coming soon after the resignation of the university’s top fundraiser, Matt Kupec, over questionable travel-related expenses, fueled speculation that Thorp was asked to step down.
“Holden has the full support of the Board of Trustees, and we have tried to talk him out of this decision,” said Wade Hargrove, chairman of the UNC Board of Trustees. “I respect his unwavering commitment to always do what he thinks best serves the university.”
In several attempts to change Thorp’s mind, hundreds of students, staff and faculty rallied on campus in front of the administration building to ask the popular chancellor to stay, but to no avail.
“It means so much to me to know that so many of you want me to remain on as chancellor beyond this year, but I’m confident that it’s in the best interest of the university and me and my family for me to go back to the faculty next fall,” Thorp said.
After a research leave, Thorp, who holds a Kenan professorship, will return to the UNC faculty, where he was a longtime professor, researcher and former chairman of the Chemistry department.
Thorp has pledged to spend his remaining time as chancellor focused on making sure the problems found have been corrected and that the policies, procedures and safeguards put in place to prevent further abuses are adequate and represent best practices.
Meanwhile, a search has been launched to find a new chancellor.
A search committee led by Hargrove and composed of trustees, students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community has held several forums to receive public input from UNC constituents and will use that input and others’ to craft a leadership statement to use in the search.
Officials said a new chancellor could be on the job by July 1.
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3. UNC chancellor to step down in June