On Monday Dr. Cecil Staton announced he would step down as East Carolina University’s chancellor.
After long tensions with UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith, the move seemed inevitable to some following politics on the UNC Board of Governors and at ECU.
UNC Board of Governors member Steven Long, who acts as the board’s liaison to ECU, released a blistering public statement on Staton’s departure Monday (reprinted below in full).
Staton was forced out by Smith in a deal brokered by UNC Interim President Bill Roper, Long said in the statement. The move, Long said in an interview with Policy Watch Monday, was motivated by a “personal vendetta” by Smith over a real estate deal and Smith’s desire to micro-manage the school, its chancellor and Board of Trustees.
“Most of the people on the board are ready to talk about policy, they care about the university, they want to see it move forward,” Long said Monday. “They’re not interested in these petty disputes. They don’t want to undermine chancellors. They want to support them. They’re not interested in getting involved in the management of the universities. Harry’s not like that.”
“Harry treats this like a full time job,” Long said. “He gets very involved – far too much, I think. And he has these vendettas he pursues.”
Tensions with the board – and with Smith specifically – played a part in the departures of UNC System President Margaret Spellings last year and UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt earlier this year. The constant conflicts have led to concern UNC will have trouble attracting good candidates for leadership of universities in the system – and that new leaders will be able to do their jobs effectively.
Long said there is “general concern about Harry” on the board – which has been the case since he became chairman last summer after an uncontested election.
“I think we were all very concerned,” Long said. “We didn’t know how he was going to turn out to be.”
Now, Long said, it’s clear.
“He needs to be replaced,” he said.
That would require a two-thirds majority vote of the board. Long said he hasn’t gauged the board on that specific question.
“I don’t think so at this point, but I don’t know,” Long said when asked if the votes to replace Smith were there.
Long sent his written statement on Staton’s resignation Monday morning he said.
Asked if he had gotten a response, he said he had.
“Suffice it to say, he is not in agreement,” Long said.
Policy Watch reached out to Smith for comment. He has not yet responded.
Long said there had been no discussion of replacing Staton by the Board of Governors. Roper acted without the knowledge or authority of the board in negotiating Staton’s departure, Long said.
““The UNC Board of Governors has never met to discuss any possible termination of Chancellor Staton,” Long wrote. “Despite that and the Board’s clear policy granting only the Board of Governors authority to terminate a Chancellor (UNC Policy Manual 300.1.1), Dr. Roper took the highly unusual step of negotiating and reaching a termination agreement with Chancellor Staton without consulting or even providing prior notice to the UNC Board of Governors.”
” He acted unilaterally and was not authorized by the Board of Governors to take any action regarding Chancellor Staton,” Long wrote. “The Board of Governors has spent hours discussing where to put a statue at Chapel Hill and absolutely no time discussing whether the ECU Chancellor should be asked to leave.”
Thomas Shanahan, UNC System General Counsel, responded to that part of Long’s public statement.
“This was not a termination,” Shanahan wrote in a response statement Monday. “This is a resignation by Chancellor Staton. The policy provision that Steve (Gov. Long) references would apply only if the Board or the president were pursuing the involuntary separation of the chancellor.”
“In addition, the Board of Governors, at its last meeting, passed a resolution authorizing the president to enter into separation agreements with departing chancellors, which is the case here,” Shanahan wrote. “President Roper acted entirely within his authority in doing so.”
Long’s public statement: Read more