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Seeking a new leader: Faculty weighs in on chancellor hunt

082318forumMERGE

In this composite photo, Elizabeth City State University faculty (upper left, then clockwise) campus police chief John Manley and professors Kacey DiGiacento, Margaret Young and Victor Adedeji address members of the ECSU Chancellor Search Committee during a forum for faculty feedback on the panel's chancellor search, at the Pharmacy Complex on the ECSU campus, Tuesday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, August 23, 2018

An emphasis on transparency and accountability and a knowledge of how campuses in the University of North Carolina are governed are among the qualities Elizabeth City State University faculty want to see in the campus’s next chancellor.

The ECSU Chancellor Search Committee held its first in a series of forums on Tuesday as it seeks public input from ECSU faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community on what each group would like to see in the university’s next chancellor. The ECSU Board of Trustees hope to have the next chancellor in place by February 2019.

Scott Bradshaw, an ECSU professor who serves on the search panel, hosted the forum for faculty in the Pharmacy Complex on the ECSU campus.

Margaret Young, a biology professor, said the next chancellor needs to understand that ECSU is part of the University of North Carolina System and that it must comply with standards that apply system-wide.

“They cannot just come in and do their own thing without looking at what the UNC System requires,” Young said.

Young said she understands the Chancellor Search Committee has said the forums are designed to look forward to the next chancellor and are not for looking at the past. However, she believes it’s necessary to look at mistakes of the past to avoid repeating them.

“You have to look back and see what some of the errors were in bringing some of these former chancellors on,” Young said.

ECSU is seeking its fourth chancellor in five years. Willie Gilchrist, who had been chancellor since 2010, resigned under fire in July 2013. Charles Becton served as interim chancellor until Stacey Franklin Jones was hired in October 2014. Jones left a year later in December 2015 and was succeed by Thomas Conway, a veteran university administrator, in January 2016. Conway retired this May. Karrie Dixon, a vice president of the UNC System, was tapped by UNC President Margaret Spellings to serve as the university’s interim chancellor until Conway’s successor is named. 

In some past instances ECSU chancellors have not understood the significance of being part of a university system that includes 17 institutions, Young said. Being part of a system means the chancellor does not have all the leeway in decision-making that they might have at a private institution, she said.

“We are not a dictatorship,” Young said. “They come in and they think we are a dictatorship. We are not.”

Young also urged the committee to carry out the chancellor search with as much transparency as possible. Otherwise, she said, “we will be back in the hole that we were in.”

John Manley, the university’s chief of police, said the next chancellor should be forward-thinking and be able to hold all university employees accountable. Manley also said the chancellor should invest time in all staff and recognize the uniqueness of North Carolina east of I-95.

The chancellor must also pay attention to both the region’s and state’s political leadership, particularly when it comes to securing needed resources, he said.

Manley said the university has gained significant momentum in the past 12 months. The next chancellor needs to be able to use that momentum and move the campus forward, he said.

“I would hate to see that momentum lost,” Manley said.

The chancellor also needs to be someone prepared to make difficult decisions, he said.

“What is needed is leadership,” Manley said. “That is what was needed when I arrived five years ago: accountability and leadership. And it’s still needed today.”

Victor Adedeji, professor of physics, agreed it’s critical the campus’s next leader be someone for whom accountability is important.

Kulwinder Kaur-Walker, a professor of psychology, said the next chancellor should have some experience as a college faculty member. That way, he or she will be familiar with faculty responsibilities, Kaur-Walker said. 

Margery Coulson-Clark, a professor of social and behavioral sciences, said the university needs a chancellor who is committed not only to the university, faculty, students and alumni, but also to the area.

“We have strengths on this campus,” she said. “We need to find someone who can harness these strengths.”

Coulson-Clark is also looking for an end to short tenures for chancellors.

“They must be willing to stay,” Coulson-Clark said. “I’m tired of people leaving.”

Some faculty also discussed some priorities for the campus as well as the next chancellor.

Kacey DiGiacinto, a professor of kinesiology, said ECSU needs improvement in operations, such as greater efficiency in textbook rentals and admissions processes.

Gwendolyn Williams, a professor of education and psychology, said there needs to be more appreciation for diversity of thought, particularly on faculty committees. If efforts are not made to ensure that all faculty are aware of vacancies on committees, people will give up and progress will not happen, she said.

“There exists a lot of cronyism,” Williams said.

ECSU Trustee Harold Barnes, who chairs the Chancellor Search Committee, thanked faculty members for their participation at Tuesday’s forum.

“Your input is very valuable,” Barnes said.

The search committee will host a second faculty forum at the Pharmacy Complex on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. On the same day, the committee will also host a staff forum in the G.R. Little Theater at 10 a.m. 

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