One week after taking office, Interim Chancellor Charles Becton spoke to the assembled faculty and staff at North Carolina Central University on Tuesday, Aug. 14.
In a spirited address that mixed humor and rhymes with straight talk about the challenges ahead, Becton said he does not intend to come up with new programs or initiatives. As interim chancellor, he said he will “continue the wonderful work — the programs and initiatives — of Chancellor (Charlie) Nelms.” At the same time, he said that for as long as he is in office, he will hold the faculty and staff to high levels of accountability.
A lawyer, former appeals court judge and law professor, Becton was chosen as interim leader for NCCU by University of North Carolina President Tom Ross shortly after Nelms, chancellor since 2007, announced his retirement. A search committee will soon begin the job of finding Nelms’ permanent successor.
Becton spoke at NCCU’s University Conference, an annual gathering of faculty and staff held each year shortly before the start of fall classes. The theme this year — and the focus of Becton’s remarks — was “Ensuring Student Success: Individual and Collective Commitment.”
“Seldom has there been such a challenging and demanding time for educators,” Becton said. “There is no week nor day nor hour when distractions, indifference, and frivolity don’t threaten to overwhelm our students. If we educators lose our passion and our will to involve, students will disengage by default. The only defense against student apathy is a concerned, caring faculty and staff.
“Our job,” he added, “is to encourage students to get off their ‘buts.’ That’s spelled b-u-t-s, not b-u-t-t-s. It was Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, who said, ‘Don’t let your “buts” get in the way of making a difference.’ Buts are nothing but excuses — as in, ‘I would have made a difference, but I grew up in poverty… but I’m from a single-family home… but it was too risky.”
Becton summarized his expectations for the faculty and staff, making clear that retention of students and keeping them on track for graduation were the paramount missions. Among the specifics were these:
“I am a prodigiously hard worker,” Becton said. “I can think of only a few times in my career when an opposing lawyer out-prepared me. My clients got the best I had to offer. NCCU will get the best I have to offer. And I expect the best from you.”