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UNCW Board of Trustees, others back censured Chancellor Sartarelli


As WHQR previously reported, UNCW Faculty senate members voted last week to censure their chancellor. Just days later, the university’s board of trustees approved a resolution supporting the chancellor, who has also received support from a less expected source.

The Board of Trustees at the University of North Carolina Wilmington have pushed back against the faculty senate’s vote to censure Chancellor Jose Sartarelli. The senate, which represents the faculty as a whole, voted 51-20 to approve a motion leveling serious charges at Sartarelli, including an initial refusal to support the Black Lives Matter movement, a lack of leadership on the fronts of inclusivity and diversity, and "a lack of empathy" with student, faculty, and staff concerns about racial justice.

The board’s resolution in support of the chancellor passed in a unanimous vote--demonstrating a clear divide between the faculty who teach at the university and the board that governs it. 

“There are a few professors that have an ax to grind with the chancellor, and it's a personal vendetta and they're acting like petulant children for the most part.” 

That’s Woody White, a trustee on the board and former county commissioner.

“And let's make no mistake about what this was. This was cancel culture at its worst.” 

In the summer of 2020, black student leaders on campus asked the chancellor to display a “Black Lives Matter'' mural on campus. Sartarelli’s “All Lives Matter” response sparked waves of criticism from faculty and students alike, although the chancellor did issue a later statement affirming that black lives do matter to him. Woody White says championing diversity includes protecting “diversity of thought.”

“In looking across the country and our university system as a whole, everyone talks an awful lot about diversity and inclusion. And for the most part, they're talking about gender identity politics. They're talking about race important topics, but when the concept of diversity of thought enters the conversation, it's crickets.”

While often found on the opposite end of the political spectrum from White, Pender County NAACP president Reverend Dante Murphy also released a statement in support of the chancellor.

“One of my problems with movements is that sometimes we get so caught up in the movement that we forget, and we overlook when people are really trying to do things to move closer towards racial equality and equity.” 

Murphy says the university’s recent settlement in a federal discrimination lawsuit indicates that university leaders do want racial reconciliation.

Credit New Hanover County
Woody White was first appointed by Speaker of the House Tim Moore to the UNCW Board of Trustees in 2018.  In 2019, he was reappointed to a term ending in 2023. He currently serves as a member of the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee, the Business Affairs Committee, and the Educational Planning and Programs Committee.

White says mutual respect for differing points of view is key.  

  “I hope folks can look in context with what he said and judge him on the actions that he takes, because that's really where the difference is. And, and that's where I think we need to focus moving forward.”

Katelyn Freund is a nonfiction student at UNCW's MFA Creative Writing program. She holds degrees in Spanish and English. In her time not spent working as WHQR's CoastLine Producer, she enjoys shooting pool, humor writing, and snacking.