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Role of trustees in ECSU chancellor search uncertain

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Kim Brown

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The search for the next chancellor at Elizabeth City State University is expected to start soon.

Although the search has not formally begun, ECSU Board of Trustees Chairman Kim Brown said it will begin soon. But as of Monday afternoon, it was unclear whether the University of North Carolina System would agree to a request by ECSU trustees to have a substantive role in the selection of the next chancellor.

An ad hoc committee of the ECSU Board of Trustees voted this spring to request a significant role for the trustees’ Search Committee in the selection of the university’s next chancellor. Under the process requested by ECSU officials, UNC President Margaret Spellings would be asked to accept one of up to three nominees for chancellor put forward by the university's search committee -- or return the selection process back to the committee for its further consideration.

Under current state law, the university trustees establish a search committee to recommend three names for consideration by the UNC System president. On at least one previous occasion, trustees said, the ECSU chancellor appointed by the UNC president at the time was not one of the candidates recommended by the university's chancellor search panel.

UNC System officials have not said whether they would agree to the ECSU trustees’ request, commenting only that an update on the search for ECSU's next chancellor was forthcoming.

“We plan to provide additional details in the next few weeks about the status of the chancellor search process,”  Josh Ellis, UNC System associate vice president for media relations, said last week in response to a query from the Daily Advance.

Karrie Dixon, a longtime vice president of the University of North Carolina System, is serving as interim chancellor since Friday. Thomas Conway, who had served as chancellor since 2016, retired Thursday.

Brown confirmed that the UNC System requires a national search to fill the office of chancellor.

In the meantime, Dixon has the confidence of UNC and ECSU officials as the university heads into the fall semester and the launch of the NC Promise tuition discount initiative. Under NC Promise, in-state students at ECSU — and two other institutions, UNC-Pembroke and Western Carolina University, will pay $500 a semester for tuition. Out-of-state tuition will be $2,500 a semester. The discount does not extend to other costs such as housing and fees.

Spellings said in an interview after the ECSU Spring Commencement on May 12 that the university is in good hands with Dixon serving as interim chancellor.

Harry Smith, who recently was named chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, has described Dixon as a “rock star.” In her role at the UNC System office, Dixon has worked closely with ECSU for a decade.

Dixon holds a bachelor’s degree from N.C. State University, a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a doctorate in higher education administration from N.C. State. Before joining the UNC System office, Dixon was an assistant vice provost at N.C. State.

At the May 30 meeting of the ECSU Phase 2 Working Group, Spellings congratulated Conway on his retirement and said she appreciated the “seamless transition” in the chancellor’s office from Conway to Dixon.

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