Editorial: Folt seems eager for UNC challenge

Apr. 14, 2013 @ 05:08 PM

On Friday, UNC-Chapel Hill met its first female chancellor in the history of our country’s oldest public university.

Carol Folt, interim president at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, on July 1 succeeds Holden Thorp.

She’s trading Big Green for Carolina Blue and comes to the job with experience as an environmental scientist, faculty leader and administrator.

He’s leaving after troubling academic scandals and concerns about how the university handles sexual assault investigations that drew attention from the federal government. After announcing plans to step down, Thorp landed a new job as provost at Washington University in St. Louis.

Folt doesn’t seem put off by dealing with tough issues. In particular, she helped lead an effort at Dartmouth to resolve a $100 million budget gap after the country’s economic downturn. She earned a reputation as “a fixer,” one observer said. That should offer some preparation for dealing with cuts urged by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.

But it may cause some nervousness, as The Herald-Sun’s Gregory Childress reported on Saturday, that her Dartmouth resolution included layoffs, a tuition increase and a requirement that financial aid recipients whose families make more than $75,000 get loans each semester to reduce that gap.

“I believe that when you have times of trouble, and I can look at my own institution when we had different issues with our own budget, what we really tried to do is really come to agreement on what our mission was, what are the things that we hold most dear, and where do we want to be in five years,” she told reporters. “Because when you start putting it in that context – what do we agree on, where do we want to be – people line up with agreement.”

Folt’s arrival, a historic step for a college that has spent more than two centuries under male leadership, also should signal an opportunity for a fresh start. That’s something UNC could certainly use right now.

But Folt doesn’t seem interested in forgetting all the good things accomplished by the university during Thorp’s tenure. During her introduction to the community on Friday, she told him, “Your personal legacy of leadership, together with the outstanding achievements of faculty, staff and students, are greatly admired across the country. I think that you’ve created a powerful momentum that really will provide us all the impetus we need to build a stronger Carolina in the coming years.”