Point of View: The faculty backs Thorp

August 5, 2011 

— UNC-Chapel Hill is going through a very challenging time. For the past year, the football program has been under investigation by the NCAA, and that investigation has struck at the core of what the faculty holds most dear: academic integrity.

Last week, Chancellor Holden Thorp made the difficult decision to release head football coach Butch Davis. In consultation with the Faculty Executive Committee and the Chancellor's Advisory Committee, we support Thorp and agree with his decision.

The chancellor has said that the timing of his decision is awkward and unsettling. But it was the right decision for him to make. Protecting the integrity of our university and our well-deserved reputation for academic excellence necessitated action. Too many indicators pointed to another year of distractions that would have kept our chancellor from addressing more pressing issues affecting our campus, faculty, students and staff, as well as the people of North Carolina.

We appreciate that Thorp did not rush to judgment; that he allowed time for information to be gathered and carefully examined. While the administration and athletics program must await the outcome of the October meeting with the NCAA, the faculty is ready to engage actively in reviewing the Honor Code and the Honor Court. We have always held academic integrity as a priority, and we will use recent events to consider improvements in already strong academic integrity policies and systems.

We also must recommit ourselves to emphasizing academic honesty when students arrive at Carolina and again in every one of our classes. Academic integrity and the ethics of scholarship speak directly to the mission of our university. We must be sure that faculty and students have the resources and support to understand and uphold the Honor Code.

Carolina is one of this country's premier research institutions and a destination for students seeking the best education that America has to offer. In our laboratories, classrooms and libraries, we offer our students the opportunity to study with the brightest and the best. But during this past year, the issues surrounding the investigation of our football program have eclipsed our ability to focus attention on core mission values during one of the most challenging economic periods the state and UNC have ever endured.

We are grateful that Thorp exemplifies and represents the core values of our mission so profoundly. He was an undergraduate student at Carolina. He is a distinguished chemist who became chair of his department and, ultimately, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Few have come to the position he now holds with deeper and more significant preparation. He has his and our priorities right, and his faculty know that.

The decisions that he made last week were complex and carried with them serious implications for everyone affiliated with this campus. But he gathered the facts, considered the information, avoided a rush to judgment and ultimately selected a path that he truly felt was necessary for this university to become healthy once again.

We support the chancellor and his decision. He determined that the academic integrity of the university was being compromised and took decisive action to provide us the opportunity to refocus our energies on our core mission beliefs. The faculty supports these actions and pledges to join Thorp as we work together to restore public confidence in our athletics department and this great university.

Jan Boxill is chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty, and James Ketch is chair of the Chancellor's Advisory Committee. Boxill is director of the Parr Center for Ethics and a senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy; Ketch is professor of music.

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