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A man in glasses with the University of North Carolina ram mascot in its Carolina blue basketball uniform

UNC professor Larry Chavis’s contract was not renewed for the fall after 18 years with the university.

Courtesy of Larry Chavis

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.

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.

Chavis said that whatever the reason for his contract lapse, he worries that the “concerning class content” which Lundblad said prompted the classroom recordings was related to his “strong support of LGBTQ rights.” Chavis said the office of Equal Opportunity Compliance has launched an investigation into the recordings, and that he’s talked to investigators.

Lutz said she “could not confirm the existence of an EOC investigation.”

A man in short coveralls with a rainbow patch and a button down shirt

Larry Chavis in his classroom on April 17 this year—one of the days the university said they recorded his lecture.

Courtesy of Larry Chavis.

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.

(This story has been updated to correct the details of Chavis’s scheduled meeting with UNC officials.)

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