He played with his glass and contemplated the right words for his answer.
“I haven’t had a chance to go to several that I’d like to. So, it’s sort of hard to answer that,” he said.
After an interviewer mentioned a few restaurants by name, he agreed that Hops was a good restaurant he’d eaten at in Greensboro.
Chancellor-Elect Dr. Franklin D. Gilliam outlined a series of focus areas and concerns in an interview with The Carolinian last week, sharing some of his focus-areas, but shying away from any definitive remarks.
A skilled communicator, Gilliam knows how to speak in a way that connects with his audience. Many at the State of the University Address last Wednesday felt that way, exclaiming Gilliam was “a breath of fresh air,” or “the most lively speaker at the State of the University in years.”
His seven focus-areas include: “shared fate, excellence, accountability, innovation, transparency, inclusion and fun.”
He noted that fun should not be particularly hard on a college campus.
When asked by The Carolinian about his most important focus-area, he noted that at UCLA they had a saying that said, “don’t be janky.”
He fleshed out his point on excellence, saying that he wanted to establish a “common standard of excellence, you don’t want to be the unit, campus group, residential hall, you don’t want to be the janky one!”
He also touched on the university’s relationship with Glenwood, lamenting the lack of communication, which led to misinformation.
“That [misinformation] is what happens when there’s a lack of transparency,” he said. He reiterated this point across multiple contexts throughout his interview with The Carolinian. Transparency was also outlined as one of his seven core focus-areas.
He continued, saying it is important for the two communities to engage: “It can’t be a thing where the residents feel like there’s a wall literally or figuratively between us and them.”
He paused, and after considering what would be best to say next, he responded with conviction.
“Have they had a barbeque with the residents,” Gilliam asked.
This mentality was pervasive throughout the entire conversation with the chancellor-elect. He expressed excitement about having his own golf cart that he will ride around campus. He said that from the cart he will be offering students rides and that it may even have its own Twitter account.
He took the “have-they-had-a-barbeque” approach to many of the issues facing the university.
When asked about a disgruntled faculty, he noted that he was once a faculty member, and also said, “I think there are ways to address the faculty.” He did not express much interest, however, in dwelling on the failures of past administrations. After making sure to pay respect to their work, he said that he wants to move forward.
Gilliam wants to take an innovative approach to guiding UNC-Greensboro forward, without changing the core identity of the university. He drew inspiration from the mentality of startup founders, specifically sharing an anecdote about the CEO of Lyft, a car-sharing service.
He noted that sometimes thinking outside of the box is necessary, saying, “Let’s blow up the conventional wisdom for a second and ask: ‘Is there a different way to do this?’”
It is in that spirit that he attacks the problem of affordability. When asked about the cost of higher education, he advocated increasing scholarships and fellowships as a solution, as opposed to cost-cutting measures, which he expressed were not effective in cutting significant costs.
When asked about administrative bloat and its impact on student cost, Gilliam noted, “I think it’s a bit of a spurious argument to try and make an equation of administrative salaries and student fees.”
He noted the impact of the “regulatory environment” on the need for more administrators. He also noted that “the market sets its own rate” when it comes to administrative salaries.
He shared his optimism about his ability to revitalize the alumni-base, noting that a high percentage of alums live close to campus. This fits in with his goal to raise more money for fellowships and scholarships.
The Carolinian asked Gilliam about a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting in which his name was listed as a member of the UCLA administration that had spent excessive rates on travel fees.
He responded by defending both himself and his colleagues.
“I spent $16,000 in four years, and I raised $65 million. That’s a pretty high return on investment,” he said.
He continued, saying, “The dean who spent $300-400 thousand has raised $200 million.”
He then restated the reason for his travel costs, noting,“I did it for health reasons, and that’s private, and believe me it’s no fun.”
Gilliam has chosen to keep his health issue private.
Gilliam will officially assume the chancellor position on Sept. 8.