Chancellor Dubois delivered his last State of the University address on Feb. 13 during a general body Student Government Association (SGA) meeting. SGA President Chandler Crean also gave his first and final address. The night was largely dedicated to discussing recovery steps after the April 30 campus shooting that left two students dead and four others injured. Dubois also touched on the chancellor search and major construction projects.
Dubois and Crean both began their speeches with updates on April 30 remembrance efforts. The University will host activities all day and evening on the one-year anniversary. There will be yoga sessions, storytelling outside of Kennedy, individual and group listening sessions hosted by Center for the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), guest speakers and student performances. At 5:30 p.m., participants will observe a moment of silence in the Star Quad and at 7:30 p.m., there will be a remembrance concert at the Belk theater.
Dubois said they decided to charge students $10 for the concert tickets to discourage people from reserving a seat and then deciding not to go.
“It doesn’t look good, and we want the Howells and Parliers to feel good,” he said.
When asked about the most memorable moment of his tenure, Dubois said April 30 was both his biggest regret and the longest day of his life.
“All of us who worked after that kept racking our brains for what we could have done differently to prevent it. I think I’ve come to accept that you can’t prevent an assailant determined to hurt people,” he said.
After the tragedy, the University hired an independent agency for $650,000 to review and advise on UNC Charlotte’s security efforts.
Crean said that planning the vigil – just 6 days after he took office – was the proudest moment of his time in office.
“Seeing students, alumni and community come together was probably one of my proudest moments,” he said. “I don’t think Halton has ever been that filled.”
Dubois also discussed the shooting’s impact on undergraduate enrollment. After an all-time high of 29,710 students in fall 2018, fall 2019 enrollment dropped 95 students overall with a decrease of 250 freshmen but growth in the graduate program. Spring semester enrollment decreased by 233 students from spring 2019. The University projects that 2021 fall enrollment will increase by 33 students.
UNC Charlotte won’t experience any budget cuts for the 2020-2021 school year but could see a decrease in 2021-2022 associated with the decline in enrollment. Dubois said this won’t be an issue of concern for facilities like UREC and the Student Union which have operating reserves, but it could impact CAPS, which has recently seen a large increase in demand.
The University is still pushing on, however, with several major construction projects. The science building as well as the conference center and hotel are expected to be completed by March 2021. The $45 million needed to renovate the Burson and Cameron buildings still has yet to be approved as part of the state budget.
Dubois also discussed the process of finding a new chancellor. Officials are now considering three applicants who were selected from a group of 65 candidates. These three will come to campus for highly confidential tours and interviews. Two names will be sent to Interim UNC System President Bill Roper, who will approve one candidate for review by the Board of Governors. The Board is expected to make the final decision at their April 17 meeting.
“I’m sure I’ll look back and say I could’ve done that differently or that differently. But I think generally speaking, I’ve had a great relationship with the students, staff and Board of Trustees, so that’s a great way to go out,” said Dubois.
Dubois added that the biggest challenge for the next chancellor will be handling the University’s growth, “even though we’re a little bit in the doldrums with respect to enrollment.”
Crean and Dubois also discussed plans to invest millions in information and technology services, add more law enforcement along the light rail, add more women’s sports, including the new women’s lacrosse program, and bring motorized scooters and bikes to campus.