UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees (BOT) Chairman David Boliek advised trustees to stay out of student government campaigns and elections, but Trustee Mary Kotis did not follow that advice.
First reported in this article by NC Policy Watch, on February 7, 2022 Kotis not only attended the online debate between candidates for student body president, but actively participated in questioning candidates and challenging some of their responses.
Several students complained about this overreach and inappropriate behavior to Student Body President Lamar Richards. Richards sent a complaint to the UNC System president and chair of the UNC Board of Governors’ University Governance Committee, alleging that Kotis attended an online debate, asked questions and offered “pointed, professionally inappropriate responses in the chat”. Richards is requesting that Kotis be removed from the Board of Trustees.
In a long, detailed response, Kotis:
- admitted to asking the very first question, which Richards says set the tone for the debate;
- agreed that he was not pleased with a response from a candidate, (who accused the BOT of being highly partisan) so followed up in the chat to challenge that student by name;
- denied that Chair Boliek made it clear that trustees were not to get involved in the ongoing Student Body Presidential election, but agreed that Boliek did remind the Board of the trustee abuse of power that happened at East Carolina University (ECU);
- acknowledged that he knew better and referenced his own active involvement in disciplining trustees involved in the ECU incident;
- appears to mock Richards for saying that he did not want his “peers to feel threatened, unsafe, nor uncomfortable at the hands of a Trustee”;
- criticized a portion of Richards’ complaint as being “hyperbole and drama”; and
- threatened a defamation complaint.
In subsequent interviews about his behavior, Kotis:
- criticized the Student Body President winner, Teddy Vann, for taking part in a Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure protest and questioned if she “shouldn’t be removed from the student body”;
- resorted to name-calling and attacking students as “snowflakes”; and
- compared his attending the student debate, to students protesting Nikole Hanna-Jones tenure process saying that there was a “significant double standard”.
Parents don’t send their children to one of the top public universities in the country to be, unnecessarily, mocked, harassed, or disparaged by political appointees to the board of trustees.