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Catching Up With Fmr. UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp

CHAPEL HILL – Former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp returned to Chapel Hill this weekend. It was his first time back on campus since he departed this summer for Washington University in Saint Louis to take on his new role as Provost.

“It’s great being back in Chapel Hill, seeing old friends, and seeing a lot of the things I started and how they are doing,” Thorp said. “It’s good seeing the campus in such a great spirit and things going so well so well for Chancellor Folt.”

Thorp gave a lecture on Sunday about the importance of the study of the Humanities at the University.

Following his talk, he received several standing ovations from a crowd which included Chair of the UNC Board of Trustees Lowry Caudill and Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham.

Chancellor Carol Folt took over as the University’s leader on July 1. Thorp said he met with Carolina’s first female chancellor on Friday for an extended lunch to catch up.

 

 

During his time as Chancellor, Thorp led Carolina through academic and athletic scandals which still haunt the University to this day.

Last year, Thorp announced his intention to step down as Chancellor into a faculty role effective June 30, but he later decided to depart Chapel Hill and accepted the Provost position at Washington University.

“The Provost job is a job that is well suited to me. My boss and me are completely in sync on many different things. It is a university that is unapologetically bold in its aspirations for academic excellence.”

Thorp on UNC sports

Thorp, an avid sports fan, said he didn’t make it over to Raleigh to watch the Tar Heel football team defeat N.C. State 27-19 on Saturday, but he did find a way to celebrate the game here in Chapel Hill.

“My college roommate and I watched it on TV,” Thorp said. “At halftime, to feel like old times, we walked over to the Yogurt Pump for some frozen yogurt, which is what we used to do when we lived in Connor Dorm 30 years ago.”

Thorp said he wouldn’t be able to make it back for many basketball games in Chapel Hill, but said he was still nevertheless ready for UNC’s first game of the season this Friday against the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies.

“I hadn’t bought a television in a long time, and I bought myself a very large HD TV, so I’m looking forward to basketball season.”

On his legacy

Leaving a legacy of encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation at Carolina, Thorp said he was most proud of his part in improving college accessibility during his time as Chancellor.

“It’s something I knew would be important to provide the kind of opportunity in a college education that happens here [UNC]. When you leave, you see how precious and wonderful a thing it is,” Thorp said. “I know Chancellor Folt is really amazed by that, coming from private, higher education. This tradition we have of meeting 100 percent of need and being need-blind and having 1-in-5 of our students being the first generation of in their family to go to college—I mean, God, that is even better and more important than I thought it was when I was here.”

As far as his plans to return to Chapel Hill one day, he said, “I’ve given up on trying to speculate what will happen in the future.”

Thorp said he will remain with Washington University for as long as he is needed.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/catching-up-with-former-unc-chancellor-holden-thorp/

UNC Sexual Assault Policy Reforms Underway

CHAPEL HILL – We should see concrete changes in UNC’s sexual assault policy by the end of this year, according to the University’s top leaders. After months of work by Carolina’s sexual assault policy task force, some improvements have already been implemented.

The group was charged with reviewing and enhancing the University’s policies and procedures on the issue. It’s a diverse, 22-member assemblage of students and leaders with in the Carolina community.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said she met with the sexual assault policy task force just last week.

“We will stay vigilant in this area, but it’s something that requires a community-side effort,” Folt said to the Board of Trustees. She added, “Nobody could be watching the news and not constantly be thinking about what we can do to ensure the safety of our communities. We have a lot of work. Just two days ago, we met with the Chief [McCraken] and went over those plans.”

Several changes outside the policy process have already been put into effect. In the coming months, faculty, staff and students will have access to online training concerning Title IX requirements, and there will be a campus-wide emphasis on preventing all forms of violence.

UNC Student Body President Christy Lambden has been working with the task force since its creation.

“We must start to implement increased training around this issue for all members of our community,” Lambden said.

Lambden and members of the Student Government began work this spring on a new Smartphone app that will allow members of the university community to report incidents of sexual violence.

“We as a community must undergo a shift in the culture surrounding this issue on our campus,” Lambden said. “We must support those who have been assaulted and continue to educate our community about how to prevent sexual assault from occurring.”

Carolina’s emphasis on improving its sexual assault policy began after Landen Gambill told the UNC Honor Court in the spring of 2012 that she was repeatedly assaulted by her ex-boyfriend. She then filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against the University. Gambill and four others claimed that Carolina acted with insensitivity and carelessness when handling these cases.

As of the summer of 2012, sexual assault cases have been removed from the Honor Court’s jurisdiction.

In the wake of the Federal Investigation, then UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp brought in Gina Smith, a former prosecutor, in January of this year. She worked with members of the campus community, including the sexual assault task force, to discuss how the University handles cases of sexual misconduct.

Winston Crisp, UNC’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, has been monitoring the work of the task force. He told a Board of Trustees committee that they can expect clearer policy language about the reporting of sexual misconduct. Specifically, a more concise definition of what sexual assault is.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen almost a revolution across the country, particularly around the processes we use and how we execute the process so that it is more humane and pays more attention to the feelings and the emotions,” Crisp said.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-sexual-assault-policy-reforms-underway/

UNC’s Jan Boxill & Jim Dean Talk Athletics/Academics

CHAPEL HILL – Jan Boxill, UNC’s Faculty Chair, said Wednesday that significant progress has been made in achieving “balance” between athletics and academics at the University. In the wake of scandals that continue to haunt Carolina, the pressure is on to make changes and prevent future indiscretions.

“We can be a model for other Division I athletic programs,” Boxill said. “That doesn’t mean that we will reach complete agreement among the faculty as no policy will.”

In mid-July, Boxill was accused by the Raleigh News and Observer of a cover-up regarding information about UNC’s athletic program

Boxill told WCHL News that she was cast in a negative light by the N&O for trying to help the University’s image during tumultuous times with the NCAA, the media, and even the public. UNC faculty issued a statement supporting Boxill after the article was published.

Photo by Dan Sears

Photo by Dan Sears

While addressing a committee of the Board Trustees Wednesday, Boxill said that the work of the Faculty Council’s athletics focus group had been tedious, but that it was on a path toward progress.

Efforts have been on-going across campus to strengthen relationships between academics and athletics. The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes was reorganized and now reports to Dean’s office.

Earlier this month, the Rawlings Panel issued a report on the role of athletics in campus life. It was commissioned by former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp.

Boxill said that report was discussed by the Faculty Council on September 13 and will be dissected more thoroughly next month.

Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Jim Dean both assumed their respective positions this summer. Boxill said this has given her a fresh perspective on Carolina’s strengths and weaknesses.

“Their visible presence and willingness to learn from all of us has presented opportunities for the faculty to find solutions to our old and new problems,” Boxill said.

Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham, Folt, and Dean together formed the Student Athlete Academic Working Group in August.

Dean said Wednesday that the three leaders were not making just a “casual effort” to improve the connection between athletics and academics

“And this group, because of the nature of the people who are on the group, is not a group that will be making recommendations,” Dean said “There is no one for us to make recommendations to. We will be making changes.”

UNC Provost-elect Jim Dean

UNC Provost-elect Jim Dean

He added that he, Folt, and Cunningham were going through “everything that has to do with student athletes with a fine-toothed comb.”

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/uncs-jan-boxill-jim-dean-talk-athleticsacademics/

Holden Thorp’s Legacy Of Innovation Lives On In Chapel Hill

Pictured: Holden Thorp, Carol Folt, James Moeser

CHAPEL HILL – UNC Chancellor Emeritus Holden Thorp has taken on his new role as Provost at Washington University in St. Louis, but his influence at Carolina lives on through initiatives he began during his time in Chapel Hill.

Under Thorp’s leadership, UNC launched Innovate@Carolina. The program works to strengthen Carolina’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, helping to translate ideas into ventures that will make an impact on the community.

Thorp also served on the President’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which held its first national forum in Chapel Hill, and co-authored “Engines of Innovation — The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century.”

Chancellor Carol Folt took over as the University’s leader on July 1 and has praised her predecessor during her first month at the helm.

“There’s also, clearly, a very powerful culture of entrepreneurship and innovation here already. I think it is wonderful that the board is focusing on that. It is flourishing, too, thanks in part to groundbreaking research done by Chancellor Thorp’s innovation circle,” Folt said to UNC Board of Trustees last week.

Echoing similar sentiments, UNC Professor of Chemistry Joe DeSimone, also the Director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise and a Professor of Chemical Engineering at N.C.State, told the Board that the University has to maintain a presence nationally through research initiatives and economic development.

“When you look at job growth, and it is what this state needs, job growth emanates from start-up companies. All the data supports it,” DeSimone said. He added that, “…it is not only the start-ups, but it is the conversion and the translation from start-ups to manufacturing. We have to keep that chain from the beginning all the way through to manufacturing, and we have to do that in this state.”

A business man himself, Thorp holds 12 issued U.S. patents and co-founded Viamet Pharmaceuticals, which develops drugs for prostate cancer and fungal infections. In 2012, Thorp was selected a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, a nonprofit organization that recognizes investigators who translate their research findings into inventions to benefit society, according to his biography on the University’s website.

Continuing Thorp’s vision for UNC, the Trustees’ new chairman, Lowry Caudill, outlined four goals for the board this year: to transition Folt into her new role, to improve risk management, to build relationship with external constituencies, and to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

Thorp also broke ground through ushering in a new era of improved town-gown relations in the community, something Folt said she will take pride in continuing.

“I feel very happy and lucky to be inheriting a very strong town and gown relationship. That is something that I know is important to everybody and something that is important to me,” Folt said.

Before Thorp departed for St. Louis, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt presented him with a key to the Town.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/holden-thorps-legacy-of-innovation-lives-on-in-chapel-hill/

Pay For Play In College Sports Gaining Momentum

CHAPEL HILL – The idea of paying collegiate athletes—it’s an idea that used to seem outrageous but may be a reality in the near future.

ESPN Broadcaster and Duke basketball alum Jay Bilas spoke at UNC last week during a college athletics roundtable discussion commissioned by Chancellor Holden Thorp. Bilas said that the concept of amateurism in college sports doesn’t work anymore and things need to change.

“College sports are professional. The only thing amateur about it is the structure and the leadership, and that the players don’t get anything,” Bilas said. “We’re not running this like the business it is. This is a multi-billion dollar business and we’re not running it the right way.”

                   
Bilas speaks to panel
The NCAA reports its projected revenue for 2012-13 is to be just under $800 million dollars, with $702 million coming from the Association’s new rights agreement with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting.

“I have considered it for a long time to be immoral to restrict athletes from getting more than just a scholarship when we don’t have a reason for doing so,” Bilas said. “It’s a conceptual problem, and I think it’s a moral problem.”

Bilas said paying college players would be expenses incidental to a multi-billion dollar industry.

“Money is not the issue with regard to athletes, because we’ve got professional athletes that are playing and we don’t see major problems,” Bilas said. “The problem is the restriction we have keeping athletes from receiving money.”

He said he believed a pay-for-play model needs to be instituted because Division I men’s basketball and football are professional enterprises.

He also argued that it’s not right that college athletes can’t cash-in on endorsements and said they have a right to support themselves and their families.

Bilas cited the example of 4-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin.

She accepted an athletics scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley. To keep her NCAA eligibility, she can’t receive any endorsements. Bilas said he believes it’s not right that she has to lose out on millions of dollars in potential income.

Additionally, the court’s attention is focused on former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA for using his likenesses for profit with out compensation.

The fall-out of the lawsuit could be tremendous, though it wouldn’t be immediate. We could see retroactive payments of former and current student athletes and the larger implication of throwing out the old college athletics business model all together. Game-makers, like EA Sports, could get out of the college business completely if they have to start paying royalties to athletes.

“Think about it this way: the athlete is the only person in the university community that is restricted from compensation beyond expenses—the only person,” Bilas said.

The harsh restrictions placed on college athletes, Bilas explained, have caused too many dealings with unauthorized agents too go “under the table.”

The NCAA should lift the restrictions and bring transparency back to the process, he said.

“It has created an underground economy. It has created scandals that really don’t need to be scandals.”

And UNC has felt the blow of scandals over past two years, all beginning with a tweet by former UNC football player Marvin Austin. The tweet drew attention to Austin’s lavish lifestyle—and ultimately an NCAA investigation of the university’s football program. This subsequently surfaced “irregularities” in the African and Afro-American Studies Department.

“The NCAA has been in crisis mode since 1906 when it was founded,” Bilas said. “It was founded in scandal. It has continued in scandal and will stay in scandal unless there’s change in the way the rules are structured and the way that the governance is structured.”

Chapelboro.com’s Art Chansky has covered college sports since 1970. He agreed with Bilas that it’s not just “amateur” sports any more and things need to be rectified.


Chansky speaks to panel

“Well there’s no question that there are big changes coming in college athletics,” Chansky said.

“It’s already started with the realignment and eventually I believe it’ll be one super-division of the NCAA that will re-write its own rule book.”

Chansky said there are many issues, though, that may come about if players are paid. Will the non-profit NCAA lose it tax its exemption? What about workers’ compensation?

“And I think it will start maybe on an experimental level,” Chansky said. “I would like to see the ACC take the front position on that and test out a certain pay-for-play scale.”

Bilas posed the question: “How would we pay the wrestler versus the star quarterback? Should we provide the men and the women the same thing?” His answer was a free-market system.

Though NCAA president Mark Emmert has adamantly argued against paying players, the topic is not going away. As Chansky said, the climate of college athletics has already begun to change.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/pay-play-college-sports-gaining-momentum/

Of Kidneys And Kane

It’s safe to say Roy Williams’ annual preseason meeting with the media Thursday was the strangest of his 25-year head coaching career.

 
Obviously, the first question was about Williams’ health, and he revealed some details of the scary 24-day period when there was a “95 percent chance” he had  cancer in one or both kidneys.
 

And, after that was over, more than half of the Q&A with the assembled media was taken up by questions from News & Observer investigative reporter Dan Kane, who heads up coverage of the UNC academic scandal for the Raleigh paper.

 
Williams said he suffered from heartburn discomfort over the summer and, after his regular check-up and two X-rays, was told he had a mass in his right kidney that was likely cancerous. Surgery was scheduled for September 20, and Ol’ Roy went on a pe-arranged golf trip with his Foxhole Buddies.
 
“I’ve always said when I croak, I want to birdie the last hole I play and then keel over,” he joked, adding that he had a short birdie putt on the final hole of the trip and was torn over making it. He missed and admitted being relieved.
 
As we know now, the mass was benign, an oncocytoma that looks like a cancerous renal carcinoma in most x-rays and scans, and is not in only 3-7 percent of cases. That increased the chances that tumor in his left kidney was also benign, which it turned out to be after a biopsy taken two weeks later.
 
“The doctors said I was a lucky guy,” Williams sighed, “and I already knew that. I’ve always said I have lived a charmed life.”
 
For now, Williams is working 4-5 hours a day but pledges to be at full strength by the season so he “can coach this team.” That’s what he promised his players when he gave them the dire diagnosis, and while he still plans to coach 6-10 more years he also said the experience has “changed me, and I will try to smell the roses a lot more.” The time with his family during the ordeal was especially poignant.
 
Mike Krzyzewski called three times, Wake Forest’s Jeff Bzdelik sent ice cream and Williams received well-wishes from dozens of other coaches and hundreds of fans. That story over, Williams was eager to talk about his young team which lost 4 of the top 17 players drafted by the NBA in 2012 and will be one of the youngest he’s ever had at point guard and in the middle.

He likes 6-foot freshman Marcus Paige, who wears No. 5 and is a lefty, which are the only similarities to departed assist-meister Kendall Marshall. But the “little rascal” is expected to be Carolina’s floor leader when the season opens against Gardner Webb on November 9. Williams also promised fans will love freshman center Joel James, who is 6-10 and slimmed down from 310 pounds to 270.
 
“He only started playing as a sophomore in high school and he’s had less basketball instruction than any player I’ve ever had,” Williams said. “But I told him Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Apparently the upside, like James, is enormous.
 
In between kidneys and coaching, Williams spent about 10 minutes answering Kane, who seems bent on extending the academic scandal from the football program into basketball and other sports at UNC. Kane asked Williams if he knew why some of his players had been in the so-called aberrant AFAM classes before 2009 but none since. “Did you find out something?” Kane said.
 
Williams had been briefed that Kane was there and remained patient with his answers, repeating that “some mistakes were made” but he has been proud of what the university does academically since his days as a student there.
 
Asked about the scandal for months, Williams maintains that he’s not as concerned with what courses his players take as if they attended class, do the work assigned and get a passing grade. That hasn’t been good enough for Kane, who sees this as some kind of conspiracy to help athletes.
 
I spoke with him afterward and, acknowledging that Chancellor Holden Thorp has admitted classes were not taught as described in the UNC catalogue and has fired at least five people over it, wondered did Kane get the distinction Williams has been making. Kane wouldn’t answer; guess he likes asking better.
 
He was defensive, understandable while chasing such an unpopular story in a room full of sports media, but Kane reiterated that these classes were “bogus” and some athletes were in them. Clearly, he was not satisfied with the steps UNC has taken to correct what Thorp described as certain students being “cheated out of a Carolina education.”
 
But not necessarily cheating. Kane would not tell me where he went to college, as I tried to determine if he understood that the problems at UNC are not only endemic to athletics but to college life in general. Most students find the crip courses and easy teachers and they cluster in those classes, whether athletes, fratty baggers or dorm rats. Who among us hasn’t taken at least one of those courses?

Students find them from other students and, sometimes, from their academic advisors. Now, they can find them on the Internet.
 
Athletes find them from other athletes and, yes, may have been steered toward them by their advisors. Especially athletes who come in as academic exceptions and need help to make progress toward graduation and stay eligible. It happens at Carolina, N.C. State and even at Duke, believe it or not!
 
It is Dan Kane’s job to stay on the story, but given how Carolina has responded, canned the culprits and made the changes, it is fast becoming a non-story that has hurt a university’s reputation far beyond what is deserved. If you want to say something stinks, it’s the moneyed pressure of big-time college athletics.
 
Even Kane implied the story was likely at a dead end because many of those so-called bogus classes did not meet more than once and assigned students to write papers to turn in at the end of the semester.
 
“Do you know what the retention rule for keeping those papers is?” Kane asked. “One year.”
 
In other words, Governor Martin and the similar committees investigating past academic transgressions aren’t going to find any proof of anything. And the university is doing what it should be doing – fixing the problems and moving on.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/of-kidneys-and-kane/

Call the blowhards' bluff

I really don’t understand anyone — Carolina fan or otherwise — who acts surprised by any of the things we’ve learned over the last two years regarding academics and athletics at UNC.

Now that Holden Thorp is stepping down, I think he should call the bluff of the blowhards. I want to see him get in front of the media, aiming squarely at the News & Observer, and tell everyone, “Hell yeah, athletes have it easier.” 

 
I mean, we’re talking about big-time sports here. We loved watching Julius Peppers on the field and the court, but no one ever wondered why he wasn’t featured with paragraph-long quotes in game summaries in the paper. Holden needs to remind everyone that we want players who thrill and teams that win, and there is not a single thing that sports fans do to demand academic excellence besides talk about it.
 
Therein lies the rub, and therein lies why State fans are having so much fun rubbing Carolina noses in it. Now that we can look in the mirror, we have to admit that the belief that Carolina was somehow different from other schools is a conceit. Carolina fans want to believe that their team is somehow superior in every conceivable way. I guess it was never good enough to be athletic-superior when we could also win the war for the moral high ground. 
 
But we’re far, far from alone in that. And that’s why I’d like an unburdened Chancellor to call it out. Tell the people every major athletic program makes special accommodations to help students academically, but we don’t do it for the players; we do it for the fans, for the consumers. It’s a business. 
 
And every Carolina-hater throwing stones…lives in a glass house. 

 

Listen to Graig’s commentary as it aired on 97.9 FM WCHL:
http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-commentators/call-the-blowhards-bluff/

Assertiveness and Passivity

On hearing news of the pending resignation of chancellor Holden Thorp, UNC faculty rallied to save their leader.  On one level, the outpouring of support is understandable.  Everyone can see the unfairness of Thorp’s situation.  But the contrast between the faculty’s sudden assertiveness and its earlier passivity is striking. 
 
Since the cloud of scandal descended on UNC in 2010, faculty have struggled to find their voice.  The NCAA had come to town for the first time in decades, academic integrity had been thrown to the winds, and our leaders consistently left us in the dark.  But until last week, there were no emergency faculty meetings, no demonstrations in front of South building, no demand for answers and information, no efforts to coordinate with other campus groups, and no move to rein in the forces that had caused our fall from grace.
 

Yet within minutes of the announced resignation, the faculty sprang into action against the one outrage they would not stand for: a change in leadership.  Faculty members worry that our Trustees might now appoint a chancellor who would not share their values.  To those outside the university, the faculty’s newfound urgency must have looked curious indeed.  Content to fiddle while the university’s image burned, faculty acted spontaneously to protect the chancellor when they saw a threat to long-term interests.

But a basic concern for the values of integrity, honesty, and accountability should have stirred them to action long ago.  The irony is that bracing criticism from the faculty may have been exactly what Holden Thorp needed to hear.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-commentators/assertiveness-and-passivity/

Transparency

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.

As the UNC community struggles to emerge from these scandals, as we lament the resignation of a talented Chancellor, so movingly displayed in the recent rally for him, we should all be asking if we have created a system that deters us from doing what is at the heart of a great university — to ask questions and to challenge one another, vigorously, in our search for the truth.
http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-commentators/transparency/

Holden Thorp's Leadership on the Airport Issue

In 2008, a covert plan to site an airport in rural Orange County came to light. In the back rooms of the State Legislature, at gatherings of wealthy UNC alumni, and even in former Chancellor Moeser’s office, a plan had been hatched to locate an airport outside of Chapel Hill that would replace the Horace Williams Airport.

The process successfully avoided citizen input and traditional democratic mechanisms to the point where several sites, primarily scattered across southwest Orange County, had been mapped and ranked for suitability.

The wealthy crafters of this scheme, many of whom were pilots or plane owners hoping for their own backyard airport, were using the UNC Area Health Education Center’s (AHEC) medical air operations as a Trojan horse. The key talking point was that the health educators from UNC would not participate in the AHEC program if they did not have an airport located close to campus and the vaunted program would begin its decline.

The obvious solution to the eventual closing of Horace William Airport, AHEC’s host airport, was to base their flying operations at Raleigh-Durham Airport (RDU). This was portrayed by the backers of a new airport to be unpalatable to the AHEC participants. As a quick aside, since AHEC moved its operations to RDU, the program has actually grown more successful.

In the summer of 2008, the Chapel Hill News published an article detailing the involvement of local business leaders with former Chancellor Moeser in promoting and raising funds for the purpose of siting an airport in Orange County.  This was concrete proof that UNC had gone beyond its declared mission as an educational institution.

Meanwhile Holden Thorp, the new Chancellor,, was becoming aware of the history and suspect origins of this plan. His first communication was to state that the process would start over from scratch, ostensibly to turn it into a fair process.

The citizens of rural Orange County recognized that this was impossible, akin to stuffing smoke back into a test tube. They continued to inform the public and Chancellor Thorp of the corrupt nature of this initiative.
To his everlasting credit, Chancellor Thorp figured it out and realized that neither the University nor he, in his very early days as Chancellor, would benefit from the legacy that this tainted scheme would leave.

In early January of 2009, he held a press conference and declared the UNC-led airport search to be dead. Citizens across the county realized that he was a unique leader who had the courage to counter powerful interests to protect the reputation of the University and the bonds of community in Orange County.
http://chapelboro.com/columns/local-issues/holden-thorps-leadership-on-the-airport-issue/