CHAPEL HILL – As we watch the continued fallout UNC is facing over athletic and academic scandals, a federal sexual assault investigation, and looming budget cuts, Chancellor Carol Folt, less than a month into her new role, said she was optimistic that the University can overcome the challenges which it faces.
In her first meetings with the Board of Trustees this week, Folt emphasized the importance of transparency as the University moves forward. Folt took over as the University’s leader on July 1, replacing former Chancellor Holden Thorp, who is now provost at Washington University in St. Louis.
In addition to the looming controversies still swirling around the University, misconduct allegations surrounding Tar Heel basketball player P.J. Hairston have surfaced.
“That’s an area that as Chancellor, that’s my obligation and interest to understand what is going on. I also have wonderful people in place that really have the knowledge and experience to help me learn, but also deal with this in a way that makes sense for our students and institution,” Folt said.
Folt said she wanted to address UNC’s “short comings” and marry a strong athletic program with a strong academic program.
The new chancellor will also face the challenge of guiding UNC through tough economic times. A $20.6 billion state budget awaits final approval from Gov. Pat McCrory, and calls for $66 million in cuts to the UNC system.
“As Carolina has done in the past, they are going to get together. They are going to work very hard to find ways that they can deal with those reductions in finding in ways that will not harm our ability to fulfill our education and research mission,” Folt said.
Folt told the Board of Trustees that she had met with McCrory earlier this year and felt “encouraged” by their discussion. The budget calls for a 12.3 tuition increase for out-of-state students. UNC student body president Christy Lambden said he was concerned about the negative impact that will have on the campus.
“It is going to have an impact, and what I really want to emphasize here is not just on the 18 percent of out-of-state students that we have, but it will have an impact on 100 percent of the Carolina community,” Lambden said. “That is really troubling and does provide a lot of concerns in relation to affordability and accessibility.”
Folt also helped to welcome the new Chair of the Board, Lowry Caudill, as well as five new trustees. Caudill, who took over for former Chair Wade Hargrove, said one of his goals as Chair was to improve UNC’S risk management. This includes a task force which will identify weak spots in University policies in light of the recent controversies.
“Where do we have areas of potential risk? I can’t tell you where they are, but I can tell you they are going to sift through the operations of the university and identify those and pull out three to four big ones,” Caudill said.
Caudill had four goals for the board this year: transition Folt into her new role, build relationship with external constituencies, improve risk management, and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.