Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.
But that doesn’t mean you should.
Dan Gerlach learned that lesson the hard way.
And so he was submitting his resignation two weeks ago.
At the bottom of a written statement announcing his departure were three letters: END.
Gerlach typed that word in all caps at the confirming that his tenure as interim chancellor at East Carolina University was over.
It presumably meant the same thing as “30” or a double-pound sign centered at the bottom of a typewritten article in journalism. (When we actually did that sort of thing.)
But in Gerlach’s case it also meant the end for him at ECU.
The interim chancellor had wanted to become the permanent chancellor and now he is neither. And, as he admitted in his statement, he has only himself to blame.
“Make no mistake: the responsibility is mine,” Gerlach wrote. “It is not the press, not the University or system leadership, and not anyone else who put me in this situation. It was I who made the choices that led to this action. There is no one to hold accountable for the situation except me.”
In an apparent quest to be one of the guys among ECU students, Gerlach learned the hard way that a chancellor can’t be one of the guys. And that you can’t go carousing at Greenville hangouts and interact with female students as if you’re at a mixer in a frat house.
Gerlach had pleaded at first that his intentions had been honorable.
“When I first started here, and even before, one constant concern that I heard was that our students needed a leader of the university to be present and approachable, someone who can speak to them in their language,” Gerlach said in a statement in September. “That’s what I’ve set out to do at ECU. I regret that these photos are being perceived as anything more than what they are.”
Then Gerlach stumbled. Literally. A city of Greenville surveillance video surfaced that showed more damning footage: Gerlach staggering after leaving a Greenville bar, slipping, at one point, out of one of his shoes. And then getting into his car and driving off. Game over.
Gerlach had earlier suggested that he had been set up. After all, he was a former member of Democratic Gov. Mike Easley’s administration, running a UNC campus during a time when the UNC Board of Governors is sharply partisan and dominated by Republicans who sometimes don’t get along with each other.
Then there are the tangled plot threads and rumors about high-powered politicos allegedly jockeying for UNC jobs for themselves.
Fearing that Republican House Speaker Tim Moore is angling to become the next UNC system president, The Daily Tar Heel at UNC-Chapel Hill “no thank you, please” in an impassioned editorial.
“Moore could be the perfect choice for UNC system president,” the editorial said, “if you’re looking to uphold the status quo of political turmoil and moral turpitude that have plagued the UNC system since its inception.
“One of the biggest problems with the UNC system is the uncomfortably close relationship that its leadership enjoys with the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Granted, Moore may not be the reason the system is broken, but he most certainly benefits from its corruption.”
Then there were reports that Board of Governors member Tom Fetzer, the former chairman of the state GOP, had wanted to be chancellor at Western Carolina University and had interfered with the search process for a new CEO there.
Fetzer denies pursing the chancellor’s job, but as NC Policy Watch’s Joe Killian reported last week, Fetzer has said he approached former UNC President Margaret Spellings about the interim job there, which went to someone else.
So, it doesn’t take much imagination to see crocodiles in the UNC swamp.
All the more reason for Gerlach not to go out on the town. At least not the way he did.
As for whether anyone ginned up (pun not intended) the controversy to quash any hopes he had of being the ECU chancellor? Could be.
But there would be no compromising images for the video to show if he hadn’t provided them.
As that great bar-hopping philosopher, Jimmy Buffett, once noted: “It’s my own damn fault.”