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Friday, May 24, 2024

UNCW trustees appoint new vice chancellor, discuss diversity report

The UNCW Board of Trustees called a special meeting last week to appoint a new vice chancellor, discuss a diversity and inclusion report, and deliberate on a proposed art installation. (Port City Daily/Preston Lennon)

WILMINGTON — At a board of trustees meeting Friday, UNCW leaders listened to a presentation of a report on diversity and inclusion, required of public universities across the state by the University of North Carolina System.

Trustees also met in a closed session to finalize the appointment of UNCW’s next vice chancellor for student affairs. Lowell K. Davis, who currently serves as associate vice chancellor for student success at Western Carolina University, was publicly tapped for the UNCW role shortly after the meeting. 

Brian Victor, a UNCW employee since 2010, was named interim vice chancellor following the death of former Vice Chancellor Pat Leonard last summer. 

Donyell Roseboro, UNCW interim chief diversity officer, presented survey data from 2019 that included responses from 658 UNCW first-year students and 712 seniors. 

According to the survey, 44% of first-year respondents said UNCW demonstrates a commitment to diversity, while 54% of seniors said the same. 

Roseboro told board members “these numbers were of concern to us,” but added she is eager to obtain more timely data. 

The four-year graduation rate for students who began attending UNCW in 2012 was 53% — that number climbed to 55.8% for students who started class in 2013. The one-year retention for the 2013 cohort, at 84.4%, was 2% less than it was for the 2012 group. 

“It feels like there’s a disconnect between what’s going on and maybe what students might want to see going on,” board member Maurice Smith said at the virtual meeting. 

Smith asked Roseboro to assess the university’s performance with a letter grade. 

“We have a lot of work to do,” she responded, adding she was reluctant to dole out evaluations on a grading scale. 

Chancellor Jose Sartarelli added, while progress has been made in increasing diversity among the graduate student population, similar advances with the undergraduates have been moving slower. 

“There was a survey that we did, and it shows clearly that Black students in particular not yet have a sense of high degree of belonging to UNCW,” the chancellor told the board. “Whereas other students may have a greater sense of belonging to the university.” 

According to the UNCW report, the percentage of UNCW’s student of color population increased from 18% to 19% in the past year, and rural enrollment decreased from 4,270 to 4,208 students between 2019 and 2020. 

Later in the meeting, board members deliberated on the installation of a “Monument to Black Lives Matter for the UNC Wilmington Campus.” 

While some members of the board sought to discuss the commissioned artwork in a closed session, away from the public, the board secretary stated that the matter was not appropriate to be discussed behind closed doors. The monument is slated to be installed near the amphitheater, next to the Fisher Student Center. 

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