UNCW Board of Trustees announces full support of Chancellor Jose. V. Sartarelli


Lillianne Hogsten

UNCW Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli answering questions front of the new sculpture.

Veronica Wernicke, News Editor

UNC Wilmington’s (UNCW) Board of Trustees (BOT) recently met for a special meeting on Dec. 11 to discuss tuition and fee-increase proposals and following this portion of their meeting new business was brought to the floor.  

Following a closed session, a motion for a resolution was brought forth by trustee member Dennis Burgard supporting and affirming the leadership efforts made by Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli during 2020.

“During a year of continuous challenges and trials for our university, this state, the nation, and our world, including the COVID-19 global pandemic and recent acts of racism and inequities in our country, our campus has required strong leadership and action,” as stated in the resolution.   

Mr. Burgard stated several points of reasoning behind the creation and need for this resolution.

“There’s kind of been some contention going on really through the whole summer and right now, all of the movement, all the discussion, and all the news stories are really detrimental towards the chancellor, and with us being in a position of Trustees, I feel like the Chancellor needs support from us or if we agree he’s not doing it, that needs to be revealed as well,” Mr. Burgard said. “The purpose of this was just to put forth that from the perspective of the trustees, that we feel like the chancellor has been doing the best he can under very difficult circumstances and that really the faculty has done the same.”

Many other members of the board put support behind this resolution and disagreed with the vote of censure that UNCW’s Faculty Senate put forth and approved at their Dec. meeting. 

The vote of censure was brought up after discussions of a vote of no confidence were delayed by the Faculty Senate to their March 2021 meeting. These discussions came after Chancellor Sartarelli made an “All Lives Matter” remark in response to students asking for a “Black Lives Matter” mural to be added to campus. 

Following these remarks, UNCW introduced a new banner policy which required that the “Black Lives Matter” banners put up by various departments be taken down and put in an art exhibit. Several campus organizations and groups like the Student Government Association (SGA) disagreed with this new policy and denounced the decision to remove them. 

In comparison to a vote of no confidence, a vote of censure expresses an open disapproval of the Chancellor but allows for improvement. The vote of censure was approved 51 to 20 and Dr. Nathan Grove, the Faculty Senate President, released the following statement.   

“It is the sense of the UNCW Faculty Senate that:

Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli accepted the charge to support UNCW values of Diversity, Community Engagement, and Integrity, among others. Chancellor Sartarelli has egregiously failed in this obligation, and through his actions has violated the trust of the UNCW faculty, lessened their esteem for the Office of the Chancellor, and dishonored the UNCW community. 

Be it resolved that:

  • The Chancellor initially refused to support a global social movement supporting the liberty and human rights of Black people;
  • The Chancellor demonstrated a lack of leadership on the matter of Diversity and Inclusion prior to student and public demands to do so during the Summer 2020;
  • The Chancellor demonstrates a lack of empathy towards faculty, student and staff concerns about racial justice, and a lack of appreciation for the role of UNCW in strengthening democratic society.

Chancellor Sartarelli by his conduct has brought upon himself and fully deserves the censure and condemnation of the Faculty Senate acting on behalf of the Faculty of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.”

Trustee Maurice Smith said he believed that it was warranted for the trustees to refuse to accept or be associated with the Faculty Senate’s motion of censure. Mr. Smith added that he did not fully believe the fidelity of assertions that were made in the censure motion. 

“I think that the censorship [by the] faculty was unfounded and out of their placement of what they should do,” said Trustee Michael Drummond. “I’m just disappointed in the faculty and Senate for what they’ve accomplished and what you’re trying to accomplish. I believe that the Chancellor, his staff and the faculty and staff as a whole are striving to make this the best possible campus, and to lash out at one individual over this is a disappointment.”

Matt Talone, UNCW’s Student Government Association President and BOT member, disagreed and provided a student perspective regarding the issues this resolution touches on.

“I do have small concerns with this, while I do agree that the Chancellor has done a great job at moving forward from this with some of the plans to address the list of needs presented, an outright support of the leadership, I just can’t agree with” said Talone.

“Regardless of personal beliefs in matters, when a group of students under the same identity come to you there needs to be outright support and unequivocal support, and then figuring out where, if there needs to be negotiation amongst the list of needs, there needs to be support of the students outright.

Woody White had similar remarks to his fellow Trustees and said he unequivocally supported the Chancellor. 

“It saddens me that we have a group of faculty that would come forward and besmirch and defame and use incendiary language without any evidentiary basis for doing so to censor him,” Mr. White said. “I mean let’s think about exactly what happened. They heard him say something that they didn’t agree with. In levels of degree by the way, because if you take what he said in context it was hard to disagree with anything he said if you’re a rational, reasonable person, but they took what he said and they took action to censor him out. A consequence of that could mean that he could lose his job. This is absurd and this resolution is very well worded. And what he has done in his five-year tenure, by the way, is remarkable for students of all race and gender. 

White went on to say that he thought that resolution could have been stronger.

“I’m not sure how the faculty even has standing to come forward and take action to censor someone whom they do not employ,” White said. “Are they free to speak? Of course it’s the whole point of this thing. They want to speak, and they want to take this action, but they want to take issue with the Chancellor speaking and suggest that maybe he should be fired which let’s make no mistake about it that’s what they want. That’s what a no confidence conversation was about that’s what a censorship conversation is about. You censor someone, by definition, you want them gone, and I don’t want him gone, and I don’t think this community wants him gone.” 

Following several other remarks from Trustees, the motion was moved to a vote and approved by the BOT with 10 I’s. 

While Chancellor Sartarelli was present during the meeting, he did not provide any additional remarks.