CHAPEL HILL (AP) – Professors at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill on Tuesday tried to sway Chancellor Holden Thorp to change his mind about resigning as head of the country’s oldest public university in the face of multiple scandals.
A special meeting of the entire faculty was called Tuesday with the aim of persuading Thorp to reconsider his resignation that’s effective in June. Thorp has said he intended to return to teaching chemistry and stressed the decision was his own.
About a dozen faculty leaders approved a statement Monday saying Thorp’s many accomplishments have been overlooked.
“We believe that Chancellor Thorp has far exceeded expectations and stands as an example of exactly the kind of leadership that we – and all of public higher education – need at this time,” said Monday’s resolution signed by 14 members of the Faculty Executive Committee. Thorp has demonstrated integrity, vision, thoughtfulness and intelligence and did his best “to make informed, reasoned decisions under very difficult circumstances.”
Thorp announced his resignation Monday after struggling with scandals that have spread in the past two years from football players accepting gifts, to no-show classes and instructors who didn’t teach, to fundraisers traveling for personal reasons using donated money.
Thorp traveled on some of the questionable flights taken by the university’s top fundraiser and the mother of former Tar Heels basketball star Tyler Hansbrough.
Tami Hansbrough landed her first fundraising job on campus in late 2008, months before Tyler Hansbrough led the Tar Heels to a national basketball championship. She and top fundraiser Matt Kupec, a former UNC quarterback, traveled together aboard commercial and private planes to at least 20 cities beginning in May 2010, the newspaper said. At the time, Hansbrough worked for a foundation that raises money for the university’s dental school.
Thorp has said that he stopped Kupec from hiring Hansbrough for a position in Kupec’s office in 2010 because the two fundraisers were dating. Still, Thorp subsequently traveled with the pair on private flights, the newspaper said. Hansbrough was hired as a fundraiser in the university’s division of student affairs in 2011.
Most of the flights taken by the pair were on private planes operated by a university-affiliated entity called Medical Air Inc., whose primary mission is flying university doctors to rural parts of North Carolina to treat residents who cannot otherwise get high-quality medical care. The planes are available on a limited basis for other state uses including fundraising, athletics and for chancellors, Medical Air officials said.
Records also show that Kupec and Hansbrough flew on Medical Air planes at least three times to places where her younger son Ben was playing basketball for Notre Dame. The university’s fundraising office paid $5,220 to Medical Air for flights to Louisville, Ky.; New York; and Morgantown, W.Va., the newspaper reported.
The Medical Air flight manifests show that Thorp was aboard flights to or from New York with Kupec and Hansbrough in April, June and December 2011 and again in March 2012, the newspaper reported. Thorp said all the trips were on university business and he had no reason to question the pair’s travel.