University Day Celebrations Interrupted by Protest

UNC’s 222nd University Day was interrupted by Silent Sam protestors on Monday.

As the procession of faculty and students entered Memorial Hall for the University Day celebrations, students began chanting.

They chanted “tear it down, or we shut you down” and “that racist statue has got to go” – referring to Silent Sam – before exiting the building.

Chancellor Carol Folt addressed the protest before moving on with the ceremony.

“I think all of you feel like I do,” she said, “that universities are places where our students and our communities speak with real heart and voice. And I’m really glad they felt comfortable to come and we were all able to listen and hear their very important message.”

MORE: Protesters from the Real Silent Sam Coalition gathered in front of the Confederate monument on Monday morning. Listen below to a report from WCHL’s Blake Hodge:


The ceremony continued with remarks from UNC system president Tom Ross, who graduated from UNC in 1975, along with members from the board of trustees and the faculty.

“This marks my last University Day as president of the UNC system,” he said. “But you’ll be glad to know I didn’t come here to take a trip down memory lane or to talk about all that we’ve accomplished together in the last five years. More than anything I can here today to say thank you.”

Ross praised Folt, saying that her hiring was the decision he was most proud of during his tenure as president.

A number of current and former students and faculty were also recognized, including 2015 Nobel Laureate Aziz Sancar.

Perhaps the largest ovation was given to Chair of the Faculty Bruce Cairns, who suffered a heart attack on September 18. Cairns was treated at UNC hospital.

“Like countless others across this state,” he said, “I literally have this university to thank for my life.”

On University Day, Optimism For Carol Folt

Carol Folt receives applause after taking the oath of office.

CHAPEL HILL – A new era officially dawned at UNC on a drizzly afternoon Saturday, as Carol Folt took the oath of office as Carolina’s eleventh chancellor.

“It is a precious gift to be here,” she said, “and I am deeply honored to be Carolina’s 11th chancellor, home of the nation’s first public university, with its legacy of excellence and public service.”

Chancellor Folt’s official installation was the highlight of University Day, marking the 220th anniversary of the laying of UNC’s first cornerstone on October 12, 1793. About 2500 people, most from the UNC community, were on hand to welcome her to office.

“Like all of you, I am deeply inspired by Carolina’s history and its higher purpose,” Folt said. “I have confidence in our people, and I believe in the capacity of the great public university to help build a just, safe, more prosperous, and sustainable world.”

Carol Folt inauguration - oath of office

Folt takes the oath of office.

UNC System President Tom Ross presided at the ceremony and State Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker administered the oath of office. Also present were North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who spoke of the challenges facing the new chancellor—”UNC is great,” he said, “but because of increased competition throughout the world, UNC must become even greater”—and Board of Governors chair Peter Hans, who issued a call for unity.

“(Folt) will have our support,” said Hans. “She will need that from all of us, because this is a demanding role, and North Carolinians are counting on her.”

And while there are many challenges facing UNC today—ranging from a persistent budget crisis to an ongoing transformation of the nature of higher education—Saturday’s mood was optimistic, as speakers from across the Carolina community voiced their confidence in UNC-Chapel Hill’s first female chancellor.

The future holds great challenges, but under Chancellor Folt’s leadership, Carolina will meet those challenges,” said Board of Trustees chair Lowry Caudill. “We will continue our historical mission and expand our reach and our impact throughout North Carolina and the world.”

UNC-Chapel Hill faculty chair Jan Boxill agreed. “Judging from your first 100 days, I am confident that we chose the right chief executive,” she said, addressing Folt. “Your energy and commitment to learn about NC…not only brings fresh eyes and creative ideas to old problems,  but serves to restore our faith in the Carolina Way  and our commitment to holding ourselves to the high standards we are proud of.”

System president Ross concurred, noting that he decided on Folt as his choice for chancellor early in the search process–and his confidence hasn’t wavered. “She has demonstrated sound judgment, savvy, intellect, energy, wisdom, and empathy, along with a commitment to excellence in all we do,” he said.

Carol Folt inauguration - Tom Ross

Tom Ross speaks at University Day.

General Alumni Association Board of Directors chair Robyn Hadley echoed the general sentiment, with a nod to Folt’s status as UNC-Chapel Hill’s first female head. “It is a great honor to bring well-wishes to our eleventh chancellor, as she–yes, she–sets sail on this journey to take our nation’s first public university to greater heights in its 220th year,” Hadley said.

And Folt herself expressed that same optimism in her own address, which tied UNC’s future to its long and storied history.

“I believe that Carolina can indeed be the leader in shaping the path for the great public university in America,” she concluded. “We can show how you do it–to be the one that preserves excellence in innovation, access and affordability, a deep commitment to the state, and gather strength to innovate and meet new challenges.

“It is the privilege of my life to be here. Together, we can make history.”

Formerly interim president of Dartmouth College, Carol Folt took office as UNC chancellor on July 1.

Carol Folt inauguration - medallion

President Ross places the Chancellor’s Medallion around Carol Folt’s neck.

University Day 2013

About 2500 attended the ceremony.