Office of the Student Body President and Undergraduate President
Suite 3109 Frank Porter Graham Student Union
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Student Body President Richards’ Letter to the Governance Committee
February 27, 2022
Dear President Hans and Chair Powers,
I write to submit for further review and decision, a summary complaint of the actions that occurred at a candidates’ debate for the 2022 Student Body Presidential Election at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To begin, Chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees (hereinafter referenced as “the board”), Dave Boliek, led a discussion at our last meeting of the Board (Wednesday, January 26th – Thursday, January 27th), in which he, as Board Chair, made clear the expectation that trustees were not to get involved in the ongoing Student Body Presidential election. Chair Boliek subsequently reminded the Board of the happenings at our sister school, Eastern Carolina University, and the severe effects of interference from any members of the Board in the student-only election – a fact to which the board agreed, with no dissent from a single member.
Yet, even with this expectation in place and with Trustees being fully versed on prior happenings of interference throughout the UNC System, Trustee Marty Kotis joined the Student Body Presidential Debate on Monday, February 7th and asked questions of the candidates, relating to the Board, and, when candidates answered questions, he entered pointed, professionally inappropriate responses in the chat calling to question the answers provided by the candidates. Following the event, I received several written complaints from attendees, candidates, and moderators regarding the Student Body Presidential election that night, all affirming the fact that Trustee Kotis’ presence made them uncomfortable, was inappropriate, and they felt they could not answer questions truthfully nor interact with their peers because of him being there. Because of Trustee Kotis’ actions, we are now in a place where student engagement in the democratic process of the election of our Student Body President and the sanctity of the role itself are being called into question. His actions must be accounted for and he must be held responsible for this interference in the shared governance process.
I write first, to receive guidance on the appropriateness of the actions of Trustee Kotis. As a Trustee myself, I am expected to be held to a certain standard and to comply with, especially mutually agreed upon, board-wide expectations. While we have seen many actions of politically-motivated interference throughout our state, and certainly, throughout our University, I am not in the business of allowing my peers to feel threatened, unsafe, nor uncomfortable at the hands of a Trustee, who not only served as a Governor on the Board of Governors during the ECU incident, but also, like me, was in the room when we had the Board-wide discussion about not getting involved (in any capacity) in the Student Body Presidential Election.
In particular, I am most disappointed and concerned regarding Trustee Kotis’ flagrant and intentional disregard of the expectations set forward by Board Chair Boliek and his lack of regard for the long-term effects his interference will have on the student body of our great university. If a Trustee feels as though they can flagrantly disregard the foundational pillars of shared governance and attend a student-only debate, ask questions of student candidates, and push back when answers provided are not to his liking, I fear for what the future of our University and System looks like. I have heard, and read, repeatedly, members of the UNC System and Board of Governors deny direct (or associated) interference in the shared governance system at any of our 17 institutions. I wonder, then, how you might perceive the clear evidence of one of your former colleagues, and a current Trustee, directly interfering in the Student Body Presidential election by intimidating students at the debate and making many of my peers uncomfortable — even after being explicitly asked, by the Chair of our Board, to not interfere or involve themselves in the election in any way.
Per University-System Policy 200.7, upon receipt of this formal complaint, the Chair of the Committee on University Governance shall determine the next steps. I am asking, on the record, that you consider my words strongly as Trustee Kotis’ actions amount to a material violation of the responsibilities and expectations of Board members when interacting with students and representing this University – and therefore should result in his removal as a Trustee of our great University.
You will find attached, the official summary of what took place on the evening of Monday, February 7th, from the complaints submitted by students in attendance. I write this after having discussions regarding this matter with Chancellor Guskiewicz, Chair Boliek, and Trustee Kotis.
I look forward to your response.
Download Letter to Governance here: