Like many friends of UNC, I am saddened by the resignation of Chancellor Holden Thorp. His talents as a scholar, entrepreneur, and academic leader illuminate what is best about UNC. He has acted with dignity during the past two years of painful revelations. Neither his letter of resignation nor his public comments have reflected anything other than profound respect for this great university.
I do believe that Chancellor Thorp exercised poor judgment in not immediately recognizing and acting upon the brewing scandals in athletics and the inappropriate actions of Matt Kupec. In my opinion, however, these scandals do not warrant the dismissal or resignation of the Chancellor.
One has to wonder if, in Holden Thorp’s own mind, this uncritical thinking — so uncharacteristic of him — has undermined his confidence as the leader of UNC. For their sakes and for ours, I encourage Chancellor Thorp, the Board of Trustees, and other university leaders to ask for forgiveness from the UNC family for missing the mark.
These two scandals do oblige us to grapple with the forces that may be eroding the foundations not just of UNC, but of many of our sister institutions, as well. It is possible that yet more regulations, audits, and reporting forms may prevent some athletes from receiving course credit where none is due or senior administrators from misusing funds.
It is equally possible that, in the deluge of television revenues and corporate sponsorships in athletics, creative officials will find ways around even the most complicated and burdensome rules. A very basic question, it seems to me, is: does the leadership culture of UNC encourage transparency, where threats to basic values such as honesty and trust can be acknowledged and addressed?
We must understand the reasons that advisors and colleagues of the Chancellor did not challenge his oversight of this fundraising fiasco. We need to understand why his advisors and colleagues did not encourage more immediate and thorough questioning about substantial and appalling academic irregularities among athletes.