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Friday, May 17, 2024

Woody White resigns from UNCW Board of Trustees, shares searing rebuke of university

Woody White (tan suit, third row) resigned from the UNCW Board of Trustees Wednesday. (Courtesy/UNCW)

WILMINGTON –– Woody White stepped down from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Board of Trustees Wednesday after serving three years in the role, twice appointed by House Speaker Tim Moore. 

The former New Hanover County commissioner and defense attorney tendered his resignation with two years left on his appointed term. 

RELATED: For Covid-19 reasons, UNCW professors can move their classes online in 15-day increments

In a scathing Facebook post Thursday evening, White described a university environment that punishes and silences conservative voices. 

Among a lengthy list of misgivings, White reacted to a Port City Daily article published Thursday. It outlined a new policy whereby professors may request to offer classes remotely that were advertised to students as taking place in person. The virtual course modality had to first be approved for Covid-19 reasons and is subject to reapproval every 15 days. 

“Students who object to these recent policies and are adversely affected, should ask for a refund,” White wrote in his post. 

The former trustee specifically called out Chancellor Jose Sartarelli. While acknowledging the chancellor’s success in student housing and enrollment growth, “his neglect of the real issues that matter in the long run is Sartarelli’s true legacy,” White wrote. 

READ MORE: Sartarelli to step down as UNCW chancellor next year

The real issues, White contends, surround the treatment of conservatives. 

White implied the university was partially responsible for the suicide of high-profile conservative professor, Mike Adams. Adams successfully sued the university in a First Amendment retaliation suit in 2014 after being passed over for a job promotion; the university paid out $700,000 after a seven-year legal battle. 

After a series of controversies and mounting pressure to resign, the outspoken professor eventually entered into a settlement agreement in early July 2020, consenting to retire early with $500,000 to avoid a lawsuit the university feared losing. Adams took his life one week before his effective retirement date.

“When a conservative professor fights for equality in his 1st Amendment rights and wins $700,000, he remains an outcast by an unrepentant Administration and bullied to a point where he kills himself,” White wrote. 

White juxtaposed this experience with the recent response to associate professor Dan Johnson, who wrote in a May Facebook post “Blow up Republicans.” Johnson apologized after the post was reported on locally in June and the university said it “acted on the information in a timely and appropriate manner,” according to WECT. At the time, White wrote to Sartarelli, complaining of a free speech double standard

“But When a liberal professor advocates violence against conservative students, nobody says anything,” White wrote Thursday. “Nothing happens.”

In a statement, the university did not address any of White’s criticisms. “The university received a copy of Mr. White’s resignation letter. We thank him very much for his service while on the board and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” a spokesperson wrote in an email Friday.

House Speaker Moore will appoint White’s replacement, the spokesperson confirmed.

In his post, White asked donors to send their money elsewhere. “Why big donors, who care about America and its future keep giving money to these universities, I can’t figure,” he wrote. “Perhaps something can be done to change where these dollars go. Let’s see what happens.”

Brunswick County Clerk of Superior Court James MacCallum chimed in under the post: “Could not have said it better, Woody.” 

On the other side of the aisle, Sartarelli has also drawn the ire of a left-leaning contingent of university professors for his supposed lackluster handling of the Black Lives Matter movement last year. The Faculty Senate stopped short of an all-out vote of no confidence and instead approved a motion to censure the chancellor for failing to uphold matters of “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Update: After publication Friday afternoon Sartarelli shared his own resignation notice with the university community.

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