Like the rest of the East Carolina University community, ECU Board of Trustees Chairman Vern Davenport is waiting on the UNC System to make a decision on whether it will retain interim chancellor Dan Gerlach.
At the end of last month Gerlach was filmed and photographed playing drinking games, dancing and socializing with students in a bar near campus. Several photos showed him hugging or putting his arm around young women in a way some found inappropriate.
Gerlach, who had hoped to be made the school’s next permanent chancellor, was placed on administrative leave “pending further investigation.”
That investigation is still ongoing, Davenport said in an interview with Policy Watch this week, with the ultimate decision resting with UNC System Interim President Bill Roper.
“I would say this is obviously sitting squarely in Dr. Roper’s camp,” Davenport said. “I communicate with Dr. Roper almost every day on this subject. I support on Dr. Roper in this investigation.”
“It’s in Dan’s best interest and the entire East Carolina community’s best interest that a thorough investigation be done and I expect it to be concluded quickly,” Davenport said. “Which direction it’s going… I have no comment on that. But I do support he process that we’re going through.”
Davenport had praise for the job Gerlach has done as interim chancellor generally.
“He’s done a great job of engaging with staff, students and the community, leveraging his personality,” Davenport said. “Pirate Nation has valued that and appreciates that.”
He also acknowledged — as Gerlach has himself — that the incident didn’t show good judgement.
“I think Dan would probably say he stayed too long,” Davenport said of Gerlach’s evening at the bar. “Clearly we don’t want to be in the situation we’re in.”
Asked if Gerlach will still be a candidate as ECU searches for its next permanent leader, Davenport said that will depend on the outcome of the investigation.
“I don’t think any doors have been closed,” Davenport said. “I think we have to see what the investigation comes out with.”
Either way, Davenport said, ECU is now beginning its search process.
“That process is starting as we speak and my objective is to conclude it before students return to school next fall,” Davenport said. “We’re anxious to get this particular chapter closed.”