UNCW: Dempsey leaving as dean of Watson College of Education; attorneys release statement

Dr. Van Dempsey, dean of UNC Wilmington’s Watson College of Education (Source: WECT)
Dr. Van Dempsey, dean of UNC Wilmington’s Watson College of Education (Source: WECT)
Published: Jun. 26, 2023 at 2:50 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - UNCW’s Watson College of Education is undergoing a change in leadership, the university said Monday.

Officials say that Dr. Van Dempsey is leaving his position as dean, effective July 14.

Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Faculty Affairs Dr. Carol McNulty has been appointed the interim dean of Watson College.

“Dr. Dempsey has been an advocate for education at all levels on our campus, in our community and across North Carolina, and I appreciate his service to UNCW,” Provost James J. Winebrake said. “Going forward, I am excited to work with Dr. McNulty and the outstanding faculty and staff in Watson College to continue educating and inspiring students to succeed in settings where teaching and learning occur, including Pre-K-12, higher education and the workplace.”

Officials say that the university plans to start a search for a permanent dean during the upcoming academic year.

Attorneys Jim Lea and Martin Ramey released a joint statement in response, criticizing the university’s move.

“In the months to come, this reassignment will undergo scrutiny,” says Jim Lea of the Lea/Schultz Law Firm, P.C. . “As an advocate of education, Dempsey has played a significant role in improving education in our community, region and state. Under his leadership the College has greatly enhanced its impact on learners and practitioners at the early childhood level, in K-12 schools, in community colleges and higher education, and in the business sector. He has also provided critical leadership for the state as Chair of the Professional Preparation and Standards Commission and for the Governor’s DRIVE Task Force. This decision to replace him was in direct response to a respected academic exercising his free speech rights.”

“Dean Dempsey has devoted his life to improving education throughout the country. His advocacy has always included transparency,” adds Martin Ramey, of the Rhine Law Firm. Ramey notes that Dempsey was hired by UNCW to serve as Dean in 2015 following an extensive nationwide search. “At Watson, he was responsible for overseeing the college’s curriculum and program development, strategic planning, accreditation and assessment, faculty and staff matters, budget administration, academic facilities planning and use, and fundraising and resource development initiatives. At the very least, he deserves the kind of transparency he sought to protect.”