Editorial: Thorp’s exit is really the only way

Feb. 19, 2013 @ 05:17 PM

In reality, the only way it could work out best for both was for Holden Thorp to leave UNC Chapel Hill. That he parachutes into the job of provost, the chief academic officer, at Washington University is to his credit.

The position is essentially the second-highest ranking on the St. Louis campus.

“For more than two years, there is no question that we have faced some of the most difficult issues to come before the university in decades,” Thorp said. “We have met those challenges head on and put much-needed reforms in place. It’s been painful, but we’ve become a better university as a result.”

The statement of “head-on” is highly questionable. The flagship of the state’s university system dripped, or had dripped for them, information that painted a dark picture of scandal never before seen on the picturesque campus. At one point, including those from outside entities, four investigations were ongoing at the same time.

Football players were found to have received improper benefits, academic misconduct involved athletes and non-athletes and two fundraising administrators — one of which created the other’s job with Thorp’s approval — resigned amid improprieties.

In one probe, the school hired former Gov. Jim Martin. But the academic violations his team found were all pinned on two people who no longer work for the university.

We’re with the UNC System’s board of governors, who questioned that conclusion two weeks ago. The only way UNC was going to get an independent review of its problems was to find someone not connected.

The State Bureau of Investigation is still looking for criminal violations. It is hard to imagine the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, the university’s accrediting agency, not penalizing the school in some way for degrees awarded but not actually earned.

Thorp got praise from the folks in St. Louis. There’s nothing surprising there. We agree he’s got brilliant credentials from the classroom and labs — just count the dozen U.S. patents that are his.

But staying in Chapel Hill, even if in the labs, was no place for Thorp. Despite being beloved by the campus community, both are better to part ways and be fond of each other from afar.

It was the only way.