UNC System President on UNC Press controversy: “I’d certainly like to resolve the issue soon.”

UNC System President Peter Hans plans to talk to representatives from the UNC Press Board of Governors and the UNC Board of Governors’ University Governance Committee this week in an effort to resolve the conflict over the committee’s refusal to re-appoint UNC law Professor Eric Muller to the UNC Press Board of Governors

“I’d like to see it resolved as soon as possible,” Hans told Policy Watch Wednesday, between committee meetings of the UNC Board of Governors.

As Policy Watch first reported last month, the UNC Board of Governors refused to reappoint UNC law professor Eric Muller to the governing board of the UNC Press. The nonprofit press, established in 1922 as the first university press in the South and one of the first in the nation, exists to advance “the research, teaching, and public service missions of a great public university by publishing excellent work from leading scholars, writers, and intellectuals and by presenting that work to both academic audiences and general readers.”

UNC System President Peter Hans

Muller has served two five-year terms on the board of the Press and was unanimously reelected chairman earlier this year. During that time, he has been outspoken on the legality of the UNC System’s controversial handling of the Silent Sam Confederate monument and UNC-Chapel Hill’s failure to deal appropriately with sensitive issues of race and history. Sources directly involved in the appointment process tell Policy Watch that enmity from conservatives on the board of governors derailed Muller’s reappointment.

The decision has been met with wide condemnation, most recently from the UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Executive Committee.

Under the UNC Press Board by-laws, nominations for seats on the board come from the board itself. The chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill and the President of the UNC System must then transmit those names to the UNC Board of Governors. But as Hans told Policy Watch Wednesday, he submitted Muller’s name for reappointment along with two others only to be told the committee would not vote on Muller.

“I didn’t have discussions with board members about it,” Hans said. “But evidently the feedback was they were ready to move forward with the two names [besides Muller]. So I formally submitted the two names.”

That feedback came to Hans through his staff, he said, rather than personal conversations.

Some legal observers, including Muller himself, say that in  in submitting a second slate without Muller’s name Hans may have violated the UNC Press by-laws that govern the appointment process. There is not provision for the UNC Board of Governors to reject appointments without holding an up-or-down vote or to suggest, as the committee did, that the UNC Press board submit names besides those that come from its own process.

“This was a clear violation of the bylaws of the UNC Press,” Muller said in a Twitter post Tuesday.

In a Wednesday interview with Policy Watch, Hans said he doesn’t know why the committee declined to vote on Muller’s appointment.

“There was no discussion of why or…in order to fill those two slots, I formally submitted the two names,” Hans said.

Asked if he would be speaking to committee members, perhaps during Wednesday and Thursday’s board meetings, about their reasoning, Hans said he plans to.

“I certainly plan to,”  Hans said. “You know, it’s never a dull moment around here. A thousand things a day. But I certainly plan to.”

Hans said the ball is now in the court of the University Governance Committee.

“Once I have direction from the governance committee and the board I’ll certainly resubmit the name or submit another name – in, of course, consultation I would think, UNC Press,” Hans said.

The UNC Press does great work and needs a full board to continue it’s important mission, Hans said.

The Press board meets Wednesday afternoon and is expected to take up the issue then.

The crisis in nursing: New reports highlight some vexing problems and why there may still be cause for optimism


Add a new series of reports from the good people at Higher Ed Works to your list of “must reads” (and “must watches” — there are some videos included) in the coming days. As we learn in the introductory installment to “Help Wanted: Nurses,” North Carolina was already facing a worsening nursing shortage prior to the pandemic and the last year and a half has only added to the problem.

As we climb out of a global pandemic, we’ve seen nurses take incredible risks to themselves and their families. We’ve seen them hold the hands of patients as they die. We’ve seen them hold tablets for patients to see and hear goodbyes from their loved ones.

Yet even before the pandemic, we didn’t have enough nurses. And the shortage is only expected to get worse.

The Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at UNC Chapel Hill will soon release a model that projects North Carolina could face a shortage of 10,000 registered nurses – almost 10% of the current RN workforce – by 2033.

According to that model, the state could also face a shortage of 5,000 licensed practical nurses – more than 20% of the LPN workforce – by the same year.

Happily the reports are about more than merely documenting the problem. In an installment that looks at the situation at UNC Greensboro’s School of Nursing, there are notes of optimism from new dean, Deborah Barksdale, who says that, despite the current slump, “We really have the opportunity to increase the supply, at least in our own way. And more importantly, the supply we produce is going to be even better-prepared.”

Meanwhile, in the latest installment, which profiles a true hero of the profession who came to be known as the “Mother Teresa of Durham,” the series highlights someone who has inspired scores of nurses down through the years.

Going forward, Higher Ed Works promises to examine, among other things:

  • how some institutions are confronting the state’s longstanding nursing shortage,
  • the frustrations of battling the job market to hire enough instructors to train nurses,
  • how burnout among nurses is real – and increased during the pandemic,
  • the critical need for nurses in rural settings, and
  • how the demand for nurses is shifting.

Be sure to stay tuned.

UNC Faculty Council holds emergency meeting on potential ousting of chancellor

Screenshot of today’s emergency UNC-Chapel Hill faculty committee meeting

Faculty Chairwoman says a source told her Clayton Somers and John Hood are being considered as replacements for Guskiewicz.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Faculty Council held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss concerns over the potential removal of the school’s chancellor by the UNC Board of Governors. 

“I would not ask you to do this if I did not believe that the situation was dire and in need of your immediate consideration,” committee chairwoman Mimi Chapman said.

Mimi Chapman

Chapman called the meeting after a source contacted her over the weekend claiming they were involved in discussions about finding an interim chancellor to replace Kevin Guskiewicz. According to Chapman, the source said that Clayton Somers, a current BOT member, and John Hood, president of the Pope Foundation, were floated as potential candidates. 

Chapman said these candidates were “choices, who are not academics and who would be considered, at best, controversial choices.”  

Policy Watch has not independently confirmed Chapman’s claims, and she did not name the source.

Reached by email, Hood said “Professor Chapman’s allegation came as a complete surprise to me.”

Somers was among four people involved in the $2.5 million Silent Sam settlement in which the University paid a neo-confederate group to take the school’s confederate monument. The Pope Foundation promotes conservative public policy and is funds several related groups, including the John Locke Foundation.

Chapman said she contacted Chancellor Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin on Sunday, who told her they were hearing the same information. She also pointed out that none of Guskiewicz’s recommendations for Board of Trustees membership had been accepted and that several trustees had been quoted in Policy Watch saying they needed to take a thorough look at the institution of tenure.

“That is a lot of smoke, in my estimation, for there to be no fire,” she said.

Though Chapman and the council have been critical of the chancellor in the past, she said it is not the time for a change in leadership.

“Our chancellor is not perfect,” she said. “There are things that we may have wanted to see or hear him do differently, and yet he is someone we know. Many of us have served with him for many years, and he could not have assumed his post at a more difficult moment.”

After over an hour of debate, the council passed a resolution in support of the chancellor. The full resolution can be found below.

Members argued about whether the resolution should focus on the process of changing leadership, or the person in question, Chancellor Guskiewicz.

Chancellor Guskiewicz

Chapman reiterated that the resolution was not meant to be a full endorsement of all of Guskiewicz’s actions, but rather a statement of support for the process and practice of shared governance.

“I don’t think that a resolution of this kind at all means that we should not be pressing our Chancellor,” she said. “Pressuring him on issues of equity and inclusion and holding his feet to the fire on promises he’s made.”

Other faculty members opposed the use of the word “confidence” in relation to the chancellor, mentioning multiple disagreements with his past actions.

“I feel that we are sending a very different message if suddenly the faculty get together and say that we have complete confidence in all our leaders and everything is fine and dandy,” Deb Aikat, a professor in UNC’s Hussman School said. Aikat was one of the members who abstained to vote on the resolution.

One member of the faculty council, who asked not to be identified by name, told Policy Watch that the emergency meeting was “ill-advised in the extreme.”

“What was intended as a show of support for the chancellor became a public show of the weakness of the support for the chancellor,” the member said.

The concern over Guskiewicz’s potential ousting comes in the wake of the Nikole Hannah-Jones controversy. As Policy Watch reported, UNC’s Board of Trustees initially failed to approve tenure for Hannah-Jones, acclaimed journalist and creator of the 1619 Project, following conservative criticism of her work. 

Last month, following demands from student activists, school faculty and UNC’s student body president, the board held a special meeting in which they granted tenure for Hannah-Jones. A few days later, she announced that she would be declining the offer and teaching at Howard University instead. 

Guskiewicz stated multiple times that he wanted Hannah-Jones to be a professor at UNC, but did not go so far as to publicly support granting her tenure. In May, Dean Susan King of the UNC Hussman school said that Guskiewicz stood up for Hannah-Jones to the board of trustees, and told members she was a strong candidate.

Before the council met, the board of trustees held its first meeting Wednesday morning with its newly appointed members. The board elected its new leadership, with David Boliek as chair, John Preyer as vice chair, Malcolm Turner as secretary and Clayton Summer as assistant secretary. 

Boliek and Preyer were two of the four trustees who voted against tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones last month. They have yet to speak publicly about these votes. 

The trustees could recommend the removal of Guskiewicz, or take a vote of no confidence, but the UNC System’s Board of Governors, which is appointed by the legislature, is the only body with the authority to remove a chancellor. Members of this board have yet to comment on the rumors that they might remove Guskiewicz, but the system’s President, Peter Hans, appeared to dismiss the idea in a statement. 

“I would encourage everyone to take a deep breath, focus on that mission, and not chase conspiracy theories,” he said.

Trustee Gene Davis, the former vice chair of the board of trustees, echoed the sentiment.

“There’s been a lot going on in Chapel Hill,” he told Policy Watch on Wednesday. “And we think that it would benefit all of us to take a deep breath and — let’s re-center on what’s important — which is solving the problems of our state, and serving our students, preparing young people for the jobs of the future.”

As for any push for Guskiewicz’s removal from the General Assembly, a spokesperson for N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore told The News & Observer that she was “unaware of any such effort.” 

The board of trustees will meet again on Thursday at 9 a.m.

UNC-Chapel Hill trustees elect new leadership

David Boliek

Despite rumors, status of Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz is not a topic of discussion at newly configured board’s first meeting 

The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees elected new leadership on Wednesday, following the appointment of six new members to the body. 

David Boliek will serve as chair of the board, with John Preyer as vice chair, Malcolm Turner as secretary and Clayton Somers as assistant secretary. All officers were elected unanimously. 

“I look forward to working together as a group with this board and this administration,” Boliek said. “…We’re at a place where it’s time to move forward.”

Boliek and Preyer were two of the four trustees to vote against tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones last month. None of the trustees who voted ‘no’ have publicly explained their votes. 

“Trustee Boliek is a wonderful listener,” trustee Gene Davis, who previously served as vice chair of the board, said. “He asks questions and is truly interested in hearing from others who have different perspectives.”

This is the first time that the board has met with its new members, a group that has made the body slightly more diverse, while likely maintaining its conservative bent.

Boliek also assigned chairs for the board’s three standing committees. Preyer will chair the Budget and Finance Committee, Allie Ray McCullen, the board’s longest-serving member, will chair the External Relations Committee and Rob Bryan, a newcomer and former Republican lawmaker, will chair the University Affairs Committee.

The news comes on the same day that the Faculty Governance Committee plans to hold an emergency meeting over concerns that the school’s Chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz, will be removed by the UNC System’s Board of Governors. 

“I’m not going to speculate on rumors,” Guskiewicz told Policy Watch on Wednesday. “I’ve got a job to do and I love leading this great university.”

The committee’s chair, Mimi Chapman, called the meeting after hearing rumors that the board, trustees and state lawmakers might pursue Guskiewicz’s removal following his handling of the Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure controversy. The trustees did not mention Guskiewicz’s potential removal during their meeting. 

Although the board of trustees can take a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the chancellor, the board of governors, which oversees all 17 UNC System institutions, is the only body with the authority to fire him.

UNC System President Peter Hans appeared to dispel the rumors in a statement. 

“The university’s mission is teaching, research, and public service, not rumors and politics. I would encourage everyone to take a deep breath, focus on that mission, and not chase conspiracy theories,” he said. 

Although the Faculty Governance Committee has expressed discontent with Guskiewicz in the past, Chapman told the News & Observer she was worried that he might be replaced by someone less fit to fill the position. 

The faculty will meet at 3 p.m. on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Equity & education: Two major stories to watch this Wednesday

The Senate Education Committee will take up House Bill 324 (Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools) this afternoon at 2:00pm.

Many North Carolina educators worry the legislation will hamper the ability of teachers to openly discuss systemic inequities with their students.

Here’s how the Public School Forum described the legislation in May as it made its way through the state House:

…the most recent version of House Bill 324 incites a fear-based approach to limit teachers’ ability to discuss the reality of racism in the United States and would limit students’ engagement with history, current events, and personal health, as well as their social and emotional learning.

The bill will also hinder efforts at the school district level to understand and tackle the root cause of inequities in our educational system and address the opportunity gap. While non-discrimination and unity are worthy ideals for which we should all strive every day, this bill would take us further from these goals. The only way to truly work towards unity and nondiscrimination is to bravely and honestly reckon with our country’s complicated past and present.

We have made progress in the movement toward a more just and equitable world, but we still have much more work to do. Engaging students in these critical conversations and complex issues is an ideal way to enable students to analyze, question, and generate solutions to challenging, real world problems. By denying our students these opportunities, we also deny them their constitutional right to a sound basic education, and we put them, and our nation at a future disadvantage. We must not deny students this right simply because these truths are challenging and uncomfortable.

Our students are ready to learn and reimagine a better future for us all. And, in order to do so, we must ensure that they are equipped with the facts and have the knowledge and skills to lead us there.

Policy Watch education reporter Greg Childress will be monitoring today’s Senate committee meeting.

You can follow the debate over HB 324 this afternoon at 2:00pm with an audio stream available here.

Chancellor Guskiewicz

The second education story you’ll want to watch will be over in Chapel Hill as the UNC Faculty Council will hold an emergency meeting amid concerns that the school’s Board of Trustees and UNC System Board of Governors are considering replacing Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.

Guskiewicz has come under fire recently for the handling of the tenure controversy of acclaimed journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

New members of the UNC-CH Board of Trustees are being sworn in this week and could press for his removal.

Mimi Chapman, chairwoman of UNC faculty, telling the Raleigh News & Observer the optics would be terrible:

…removing Guskiewicz as chancellor would be a “threat to the well-being of our campus,” particularly at a time when the university is also searching for a new provost.

Hannah-Jones, for who declined UNC for Howard University after a tumultuous tenure battle, responded to news this way:

Though much of today’s Faculty Council meeting will be in closed session, a livestream will be available at this link starting at 3:00pm.