Op-Ed: What students and Watauga residents deserve from App State’s next chancellor

Photo: Dylan Rhoney/Cardinal & Pine

By Jack Yordy

April 25, 2024

“A chancellor who chooses to ignore the unique needs of a community and student population, as Sheri Everts has done, is not what Watauga County residents and Appalachian State University need or want,” Jack Yordy, App State College Democrats President, writes in an op-ed.

Appalachian State University chancellors are not always universally despised by the people of Watauga County.

Chancellor Kenneth Peacock, predecessor to Sheri Everts, was a beloved leader who captured the respect of Watauga residents and students alike with his compassionate and progressive leadership. I never had the pleasure of knowing him, but I have never heard a bad word said about him.

Chancellor Everts, on the other hand, is known in Watauga for being the only person who could manage to bring students, faculty, and locals together—that is, together in mutual dislike for her policies, her lack of outreach, and her leadership style.

Students expressed their disdain for Everts more than once through protests and sit-ins throughout her tenure. Recently, multiple on-campus demonstrations criticized Everts over the renovation and surveillance of the long-standing Freedom of Expression tunnel, an effort to pressure the LGBT Center to stop using LGBTQ+ related terms in events, and her failure to provide the Art Department with a structurally sound building.

Before she stepped down earlier this month, our faculty called two no-confidence votes in Chancellor Everts during her tenure and passed a resolution this month condemning her failure to respond substantively to students’ concerns. The community finds it more than challenging to effectively communicate their displeasure with the university and our chancellor.

This challenge is born from the way in which the University of North Carolina system operates. Chancellors are appointed by the UNC Board of Governors, a board of members appointed by the General Assembly. The Chancellors of Appalachian State University, and university chancellors across the state, are not accountable to their students, their faculty, or the community over which they essentially preside as a unitary executive.

For this reason, the character and biases of the person appointed to be chancellor matter a great deal.

A chancellor who chooses to ignore the unique needs of a community and student population, as Sheri Everts has done, is not what Watauga County residents and Appalachian State University need or want.

We need a chancellor who is willing to acknowledge the genuine concerns of their university and community–a chancellor who wants to improve students’ opportunities, diversity, and equality without pushing working people out of Boone. A leader who values transparency and communication and is sensitive to the diverse needs of their constituency and community.

Most importantly, we need a chancellor who wants to hear us. Unfortunately, the next chancellor may recognize that their power does not come from us and, as a result, choose to ignore the students, faculty, and community in order to achieve the goals of a highly partisan Board of Governors.

If that is the kind of person the UNC Board of Governors appoints, we will have another decade of intense frustration and tension. If instead, they are willing to listen and to hear the genuine concerns of their constituents and hosts, perhaps we will see something better. The students, faculty, and staff of Appalachian State University and the residents of Watauga County deserve more from the next chancellor.

We await this appointment with cautious optimism and significant scrutiny.

Author

  • Jack Yordy

    Jack Yordy is a senior at Appalachian State University studying computer science, an activist and organizer with the College Democrats of North Carolina, and canvassing director with the Watauga County Democratic Party.

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