Message from Chancellor Sartarelli re: UNCW Statement July 2, 2020

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Recently, my office announced that UNCW reached an agreement with Dr. Mike Adams regarding his early retirement. You are no doubt familiar with the controversies surrounding Dr. Adams going back over a decade, so I will not review them again here. Today, I want to provide you with the details of that agreement.

I will be open and transparent with you about our thinking and how this played out. We could not will or wish away the situation. There was no easy solution. We had to make the difficult, but correct, decisions to resolve the matter and move the university forward.

In the case of Dr. Adams, as a senior tenured faculty member, we faced three realistic choices:

1) Have him continue as a faculty member and accept the ongoing disruption to our educational mission, the hurt and anger in the UNCW community, and the damage to the institution.

2) Attempt to terminate him, and face drawn out, very costly litigation, that we might not win, which was the case when Dr. Adams sued UNCW and won a First Amendment retaliation lawsuit in 2014. That legal process lasted 7 years and cost the university roughly $700,000, $615,000 of which was for Dr. Adams’ attorneys’ fees. Losing a similar lawsuit today could cost even more.

3) Negotiate a settlement when, as part of a conversation with me about his conduct and future at UNCW, I learned Dr. Adams was interested in retiring. This approach allows us to resolve the situation quickly, with certainty, and in the most fiscally responsible way. This is the best option for our university and our community.

Ultimately, after extensive negotiation, the parties reached a total settlement amount of $504,702.76, for lost salary and lost retirement benefits, which was approved by the North Carolina Attorney General and the UNC Board of Governors. UNCW agreed to pay the amount to Dr. Adams over a five-year period with all payments coming from discretionary trust dollars, i.e., savings from previous years, and not state-budgeted funds.

This resolution is less damaging to UNCW than leaving the situation unresolved. In addition to saving money, the settlement will prevent the continued disruption to our educational mission, reduce concerns around campus safety, and lessen the harm to the institution. Dollars are precious, but our institutional integrity is priceless.

As July progresses, we will share an action plan that outlines specific steps we will take to honor and demonstrate the values of inclusivity, cultural awareness, equality, and transparency.  This planning takes time, deliberation, and most importantly, the input, feedback, and support of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, especially our Black communities.  It’s critical for UNCW’s future that we get it right. I hope you will join us in making it happen.

Jose V. Sartarelli