Questions Raised About Search For New Western Carolina University Chancellor

Jul 27, 2018

UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith and UNC system President Margaret Spellings responded to questions about the aborted Western Carolina University chancellor search at a press conference Friday.
Credit Lisa Philip / WUNC

UNC system officials are fielding questions after a search for the next chancellor at Western Carolina University fell apart. A member of the UNC Board of Governors released the name of a leading candidate to an outside firm, according to emails obtained by the News and Observer. The candidate later dropped out.

“I think confidentiality is paramount with executive searches at this level, and it has to be respected throughout the process,” UNC President Margaret Spellings said at a press conference Friday.

When asked if she believed confidentiality had been respected in the WCU chancellor search process, Spellings said, “I’m not sure.”

The new chairman of the Board of Governors, Harry Smith, said he didn't think the board should be involved in the chancellor search process, "at all."

"The local consitutents, including the trustees, know the institution the best," said Smith, who presided over his first full board meeting Friday.

UNC Board of Governors member Tom Fetzer, a Wilmington-based lobbyist, said he consulted an outside screening company because he had concerns about what he called misrepresentation on the candidate's resume.

The candidate was one of three recommended by Western Carolina’s Board of Trustees after a months-long search. The UNC Board of Governors personnel committee was set to vote on Spellings’ top pick at a closed meeting on July 12. But that vote did not happen.

Fetzer’s actions have been denounced by other members of the Board, and have raised concerns about how applicants view future UNC system chancellor searches.

Western Carolina’s former chancellor died in June after being diagnosed with brain cancer.