You may not care how Fayetteville State University chose its newest chancellor.
But maybe you should.
Sooner or later, Winston-Salem State University and UNC School of the Arts will need successors for current chancellors, Elwood Robinson and Brian Cole, respectively. And, when that happens, you probably wouldn’t want to do it the way it’s been done for FSU.
The new chancellor at Fayetteville State is Darrell Allison. Allison is a former member of the UNC Board of Governors who suddenly resigned his seat in September and then applied for the job.
To say his hiring was a shock is an understatement.
According to reports from at least two news outlets, Allison was not among the finalists for the FSU post, which attracted a national field of more than 60 applicants.
He has no administrative background in higher education.
He has no teaching experience.
He has little apparent support among faculty and students.
He does have plenty of opposition. Students, alumni and faculty have staged protests. The FSU National Alumni Association has threatened legal action. An online petition to remove him from the job had gathered 2,500 signatures as of last week.
In Allison’s favor, Fayetteville State is a historically Black institution and he is a graduate of an HBCU. And he has been a member of the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, N.C. Central. Also, during his tenure on the Board of Governors, he chaired a committee that focused on historically minority campuses. He has headed Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, which advocates for school choice. Most recently, he worked for the American Federation for Children, which also promotes school choice.
But he has never run an operation the size of a state university.
Allison, who also holds a law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, seems unfazed through it all and says he plans to win over the skeptics. “We all know that the perceptions can be distorted,” Allison told The (Raleigh) News & Observer shortly before starting work at Fayetteville State. “The reality is they’ll get a chance to see the real Darrell, not what someone else said or alleged.”
Good luck with that. A chancellor’s job is hard enough without having to face entrenched resistance from Day 1.
Even if Allison eventually should win friends and influence people in Fayetteville, the process used to hire him is fundamentally flawed and does not serve the best interests of the UNC System.
Roiling barely beneath the surface of all this is the belief by Allison’s critics that he was handpicked by UNC President Peter Hans and railroaded into the job with little regard to what the trustees or the community at Fayetteville State wanted.
What should make this even unsettling for other UNC campuses is that, going forward, Hans won’t even have to pretend not to care about what trustees at UNC campuses want. A new policy approved by the Board of Governors allows him to nominate as many as two candidates for a chancellor’s jobs at any UNC campus, one of whom would have to be among the two final picks recommended to the UNC System president.
The previous policy — which was not broken but has been fixed anyway — valued input from individual campuses. Each school’s trustees chairman would head a search committee that represented the interests of faculty, staff, students and alumni. The search committee also sought community input. The committee then made recommendations to the full trustees board, which in turn, would vote on candidates to recommend to the UNC System president. Finally, the president would recommend a candidate to the Board of Governors.
The old model stressed local input and buy-in. The new one does not.
Given the heavily weighted vote it now bestows on the UNC president, why even bother with a search? And why even bother to apply if you weren’t suggested by Hans?
The new policy was not supposed to affect the FSU hire because the chancellor search there began before it was enacted. But Hans certainly seems to be using it. At least we can see for ourselves how arrogant and shortsighted it is. And how it can make a charade of trustee searches.