BOONE — The Appalachian State University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to pass a resolution of confidence in the leadership of Chancellor Sheri Everts during a special conference call meeting held July 6.
“Whereas, the COVID-19 global pandemic, recent acts of racism and inequities in our country and on our campus require strong leadership and action,” the resolution begins, followed by a lengthy list of actions taken by the chancellor and her leadership team.
With regard to the university’s COVID-19 response, the actions listed included the transition of 2,600 course sections from face-to-face learning to online instruction last spring; the development of support programs for students impacted by the pandemic; developing new work shifts to comply with social distancing; adjustments to spending and budgeting due to COVID-19 impacts; the creation of the Recovery Strategy Leadership Group and the Project Management and Implementation Team; and regular meetings with multiple staff, faculty and student groups on campus, among others.
“In a time of unprecedented uncertainty, the chancellor and members of her leadership team have been in constant communication with the UNC system office to relay and address concerns expressed by faculty, staff and students, provide updates on campus needs and resources and to request assistance with health and safety planning and logistics,” the resolution stated.
With regard to diversity and inequities, the resolution notes that during Everts’ tenure, the proportion of ethnically diverse students has risen 46.6 percent, to 17.4 percent during the 2019-20 academic year. It notes that Appalachian’s overall retention rate is nearly 88 percent, “well above the national average,” and that the retention rates for under-represented students is 87 percent and for black/African American students is 89 percent.
Since spring 2019, it said, 90 percent of the university’s academic departments have hosted trainings on implicit bias, and currently, 32 percent of new faculty hires are from underrepresented populations.
“Chancellor Everts brings her experience in diversity and inclusion from numerous other educational institutions and recognizes successful diversity initiatives must ‘go beyond the numbers’ and include broad cultural changes that foster inclusive excellence,” the resolution stated.
According to university spokesperson, the resolution was proposed by Trustees Chair John Blackburn, with input and edits from other trustees submitted in writing and by phone prior to the meeting.
"The actions and leadership of Chancellor Everts and her administration — including in particular, Interim Provost (Heather) Norris — have inspired our unwavering confidence in their ability to lead Appalachian State University through an unprecedented global crisis," Blackburn said. "Now more than ever, we need strong, collaborative leaders at Appalachian’s helm. The board is certain that Chancellor Sheri Everts and the leadership team she has developed are expertly providing this leadership and will continue to do so."
The meeting was announced on July 1, with a closed session “to prevent the disclosure of privileged or confidential information” and “for the purpose of consulting with the university’s attorney” as the only agenda item listed.
Following a 40-minute closed session, the trustees returned to open session and voted to amend the agenda to consider adoption of the resolution. Trustees Vice Chair Scott Lampe read the resolution aloud, and the trustees then passed the resolution unanimously.
"Like all resolutions, the purpose is to be clear about our opinion and have a public record of such," Blackburn said. "These are incredibly challenging times, and we feel it is important to definitively state our confidence in Chancellor Everts and her leadership team."
The resolution comes as a number of Appalachian State faculty are questioning plans to return to in-person teaching this fall. The university has also been the subject of some criticism during recent online events organized by the group Black in Boone, with one person referring to perceived “structural racism” within the university. Earlier in the day on July 6, a group called Black at App State sent a list of demands to Appalachian administrators.
The full text of the resolution can be read at wataugademocrat.com.