Former UNCW Watson College dean agrees to stay on as faculty member

Former UNCW Watson College dean agrees to stay on as faculty member
Published: Oct. 5, 2023 at 1:43 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Dr. Van Dempsey says he was removed from his position of dean of the Watson College of Education at UNC Wilmington earlier this year. After discussions with university officials, Dempsey says he plans to remain as a faculty member at the college.

The university announced in June that Dempsey’s time as dean would end on July 14. Shortly after that announcement, Dempsey’s attorneys said said his replacement came after this year’s Razor Walker Awards ceremony in April, where a group of protestors walked out in opposition to an award being presented to Republican State Senator Michael Lee.

Dempsey maintains that he was not a part of that protest, but his attorneys said they believed his removal stemmed from the controversy.

Dempsey had said that UNCW Chancellor Aswani Volety approached him before the ceremony and said he wanted to make sure a conservative won a Razor Walker Award this year.

While Lee was ultimately chosen as one of this year’s recipients, a petition signed by hundreds of people called for Lee’s award to be rescinded because he is a sponsor of Senate Bill 49, also known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights.

Dempsey says he recently worked with UNCW officials to negotiate the terms of his return as a tenured faculty member.

“We’ve come to terms on the basics of the retreat rights,’ said Dempsey. “I now know what the timeline is, [the] provost knows what the timeline is. I am engaged in the process of framing what my research and writing agenda will look like.”

Dempsey says he plans to begin teaching again in the fall of 2024.

“Decisions that had been made have been made and I don’t I don’t have any desire to go back and rehash those decisions, to challenge those decisions, to try to reverse any of the decisions that have been made,” he said.

Dempsey adds that he looks forward to seeing what the future holds for both himself and the university.

“As a result of the experiences and where we are now in our relationship, I don’t feel an acrimonious, toxic kind of relationship,” Dempsey said. “It’s my hope that the university is successful, the chancellor is successful, the people who lead the university are successful, I want them to be successful.”

UNCW hired Dempsey as the dean of Watson College in 2015. WECT reached out to a UNCW spokesperson for comment on Dempsey’s status, but was told the university will refrain from answering questions on this matter.