UNC Fires The Professor They Secretly Recorded

Larry Chavis photo via Inside Higher Ed

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will not renew the contract of a professor whose classes they recorded without his permission, university media relations director Beth Lutz confirmed.

Larry Chavis has taught economics at the university’s Kenan-Flagler Business School on a yearly contract since 2006. In April, he was notified that his classes had been secretly recorded by a camera in his lecture hall, and that footage of those lessons had been used in a professional review. The review was prompted by “reports concerning class content and conduct … over the past few months,” associate dean Christian Lundblad wrote in a letter to Chavis.

“Notice is not required to record classes, and we do record classes without notice in response to concerns raised by students,” Lundblad’s letter said.

See P&Q’s earlier story on Larry Chavis here.

Lutz declined to comment on the university’s reasons for letting Chavis’s contract lapse, including whether the recordings played any role in the decision. Chavis told Inside Higher Ed that the letter he received informing him of his termination offered no rationale.

When Chavis asked university officials to explain in more detail the reasons he was under review and why he’d been secretly recorded, Lundblad told him they would meet to discuss it. That meeting was never scheduled.

Chavis, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, has been an outspoken advocate for Indigenous and LGBTQ+ rights in ways that have sometimes pitted him against university officials, he told Inside Higher Ed in April.

The news of clandestine classroom recordings raised concerns among many faculty members at UNC Chapel Hill, Inside Higher Ed reported last month. A university spokesperson wrote that officials “do not have a formal policy” on classroom recordings, but their use in a professional conduct review appeared to go against multiple informal policies at the university.

The Office of the Provost’s list of best practices, for example, states that “a recorded classroom lecture should not be used for any purpose except to meet the educational objectives of that particular class.” And the Kenan-Flagler school’s IT department policy webpage states that “classes are only recorded with the expressed permission of faculty,” which Chavis denies granting.

“For the first time in my career, I’m pretty shaken,” Chavis posted to LinkedIn after receiving Lundblad’s letter in April. “I pray I’ll still have a job at the end of this process.”

That process has ended now, and with it Chavis’s 18-year run at the university. He posted on LinkedIn last Tuesday that he was “still sorting through a new reality.”

Chavis declined to go into much detail about his experience with the university since he learned of the recording. But he said that as a lifelong North Carolinian, teaching at Chapel Hill was a dream that he’s disappointed to see end in conflict.

“It’s definitely hard after investing so much in one place,” he said.

He added that the academic job market is not exactly flush with opportunities in early summer, especially for teaching-oriented professors like himself with little in the way of highly-prized published research.

“The market for teaching skills is not the same as the market for research skills,” he said.


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