The list of leaders who are departing the university system in North Carolina is growing. East Carolina University Chancellor Cecil Staton announced this morning that he will resign his position.
Staton managed numerous challenging issues at ECU since his hiring in 2016, including coaching changes and the school's purchase of a $1.3 million chancellor's house. He also clashed with members of the UNC System Board of Governors and its chairman Harry Smith.
Smith is an ECU alum and a vocal presence in the Pirate Club, ECU's athletic booster organization. Smith also disagreed with ECU administrators in 2016 over a campus housing complex he sought to purchase.
The University of North Carolina system issued a news release Monday saying that Staton would step down effective May 3. He's slated to remain in an advisory capacity until the end of June. Staton said he signed a non-disparagement agreement last week and would not go into details about how his departure came about.
"I was (former UNC System President) Margaret Spellings' first hire as a chancellor in this system. She is no longer here," Staton said in a press conference Monday morning. "There are changes and that's a part of life and we accept that and respect it and we just feel like this is the right time for us."
When asked specifically if interim UNC System President William Roper asked for his resignation, Staten said, "We will get into semantics here, and it's sort of difficult. Let me simply say: I did not initiate this."
In a statement, Roper did not elaborate on a reason for Staton's departure.
"ECU's importance to this state and to Eastern North Carolina is immense and I'm grateful that Chancellor Staton answered the call to serve the Pirate community over the past three years," said Roper. "I'm confident he is leaving the university in good hands and with a bright future ahead as it continues to build on its success."
Staton joins UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor Carol Folt and UNC System president Margaret Spellings as leaders who clashed with the Board of Governors and are no longer in their positions. The Board of Governors also got involved in the hiring of the Western Carolina University chancellor search, causing it to break down last year.
The Board of Governors meets later this week to vote on several new appointments to the ECU Board of Trustees. Staton was hired at ECU in April of 2016 after years of serving as a faculty member and administrator of universities in Georgia. East Carolina University has an enrollment of nearly 29,000, including about 23,000 undergraduates.