Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86, who grew up working in the community theater his parents ran, made a dramatic entrance onstage outside South Building at the end of an hourlong rally Friday and gave what appeared to be the definitive word on his future — despite campuswide calls for him to reconsider the resignation he announced on Monday, he insisted he is returning to the faculty.
Some 800 students, teachers and University staff gathered in Polk Place at noon to hear a long list of speakers call for him to change his mind. About half that number remained when Thorp stepped out into the sunshine to thank them. Then he said, “But I’m confident that it’s in the best interest of the University and me and my family for me to go back to the faculty next fall.”
The rally capped a week in which the UNC trustees, a general meeting of the faculty, the campus employees’ organization and others urged Thorp to continue as chancellor.
He plans to return to teaching in the chemistry department, though according to UNC System guidelines, a departing chancellor is entitled to a year’s research leave.
On Tuesday, Thorp had looked out at some 250 faculty assembled on his behalf and said, “I appreciate your outpouring of support. I am so appreciative of the resolution that you will consider, but right now my plan is to sit out there with you. It looks really good.”
The faculty present approved a resolution calling for UNC System President Thomas Ross ’75 (JD) to decline Thorp’s resignation. The trustees approved a similar resolution the next day.
“Carolina’s faculty, staff and students are stronger than ever,” Thorp told the Friday rally. “I’m so appreciative of all the support that you all have given to me and my family this week. I’m grateful for the resolution from the Board of Trustees, from the general faculty, from the employee forum, from the student government, from the graduate student federation, and from the faculty chairs. Thank you. It means so much to me that so many of you want me to stay on as chancellor beyond this year.
“These are challenging times for higher education, but you are showing now that our future is bright. We will not waver from our commitment to access to higher education. We will not waver from our commitment to access to health care. And we will not waver from our commitment for the pursuit of higher education that satisfies human curiosity and enables citizenship, equality and prosperity. Together we are the light on the hill. Let it shine. Thank you all.”
Among the Friday speakers, student body President Will Leimenstoll said of Thorp, “I think he’s tired of bearing the brunt” of scandals in the football program and the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.
Thorp closed the rally by leading the singing of Hark the Sound.