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UNC Chancellor Thorp Discusses Most Recent Scandal

The Board of Governors for the UNC system continues to stand behind UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp in the wake of a scandal involving two fundraising officers. But board members also made it clear to Thorp in a meeting Friday they’re concerned about the latest hit to the state’s flagship university.

The board’s discussion of the most recent resignations was closed to the public. UNC system president Tom Ross said after he still supports UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp.

"The chancellor in this most recent situation acted quickly, decisively, in a circumstance that was clearly inappropriate," Ross said. "And so he handled that I think well and quickly, and I think the board recognized that today."

Board Chairman Peter Hans said in many ways, Thorp is doing a good job.

"Of course it's equally clear he needs to be successful in clearing up some lingering issues on campus," Hans said.

Those issues started two years ago with football. The NCAA caught some former UNC players cheating in classes and taking gifts from agents. Then that scandal spilled over into the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, when an internal investigation found some of its instructors gave athletes and others good grades without assigning work.

Now, it’s fundraising. Vice Chancellor and top fundraiser Matt Kupec resigned this week, and so did another fundraiser, Tami Hansbrough. UNC caught them paying for personal trips with university money.

Hansbrough is the divorced mother of former UNC basketball star Tyler Hansbrough. When she got her fundraising job, she and Kupec were in a relationship. Her $95,000-a-year position was funded by Kupec’s office, although it was based in the Office of Student Affairs. 

Chancellor Thorp said their resignations will lead to changes. 

"We've tightened up things in athletics compliance, we've tightened up things monitoring teaching loads, and now we're going to tighten up things monitoring vice chancellors' expenses," Thorp said. "Every time we do that, we make Carolina a stronger university."

Thorp said it's common for fundraisers to be in the Office of Student Affairs, the College of Arts and Sciences, the library system or other units. He said almost every unit in the university has a fundraiser.

He also said he knew about Kupec and Hansbrough's involvement.

"We did know when she moved to Student Affairs that they were involved, and having her in Student Affairs where she didn't report to him was consistent with the university's nepotism policy."

"We have lots of married couples that work in the university or people who are involved in relationships that we manage, and that's why the university and the (UNC) system have nepotism policies to take care of that," Thorp continued.

He also said it's common for fundraisers like Kupec and Hansbrough to travel together.

"What I don't think we knew until we started talking about this the last two or three weeks was the extent of it, but more importantly, the conspicuous nature of the destinations that they were traveling to," Thorp said. Some of Kupec and Hansbrough's trips coincided with Hansbrough's son Ben's Notre Dame basketball games.

Thorp said the university will now do an internal audit to make sure there aren't any other problems, and then there'll be a discussion about if the university needs to set up additional oversight for the travel expenses of vice chancellors and other senior officers.

He also said losing Kupec is a huge blow because he led UNC's last two massive fundraising campaigns, and the university is now gearing up for its next one.

Thorp said that some donors called the fundraising office this week to say they’re sad Kupec resigned, and that others called to say they’re angry UNC is in trouble yet again.