“Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.”

That little disclaimer frequently appears at the end of commercials prodding people to buy, right now, an investment product with an amazingly high return. An investment that seems a little too good to be true. Because in all likelihood, it is.

However, we’re using that phrase today not in regard to a financial investment, but in regard to a community investment: The selection of the next chancellor at Western Carolina University.

The search for a leader to step into the large shoes left behind by the late David Belcher has narrowed to 10 contenders. Those hopefuls, winnowed from a field of 58, will be interviewed today (Thursday) through Saturday.

Belcher, upon receiving the news of a recurrence of brain cancer, took medical leave heading into 2018. After a search process that relied heavily on local input, a vote was scheduled on his replacement in July of 2018.

At that time, the UNC Board of Governors gathered to consider the candidate who rose to the top of the first search process, but a vote never happened.

Former WCU trustee Tom Fetzer, a current member of the UNC Board of Governors, raised questions about the candidate’s qualifications, claiming the candidate had misrepresented himself. Fetzer, without consulting his colleagues, asked a private firm to investigate.

The search resumed in September as the reconvened search committee set a new timeline for a second round of candidates, interviews and visits to campus.

A meeting on Jan. 14 marked the fifth gathering of that committee since the events of July. The committee is working with the executive recruitment firm Buffkin Baker and the University of North Carolina system’s Lynn Duffy.

The committee has 21 members who represent stakeholders, ranging from alumni to community members to WCU students, staff and faculty. They have our full confidence.

Sadly, we can’t say the same about the UNC Board of Governors. There’s a troubling track record building up in that corner.

That record includes the firing of Tom Ross as UNC president for reasons that have never been explained. It includes the departure of Ross’ replacement, Margaret Spellings, who evidently left after suffering enough micromanagement and second-guessing. That scenario recently played out again with the exit of UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt, with the added bonus of the board thoroughly botching – nay, inflaming – the controversy over UNC’s “Silent Sam” statue.

We’ll never know what exactly unfolded in connection with the pick last July for a new WCU chancellor.

We’ll also never know if the dream replacement for that job might have taken a look at the shabby treatment of Spellings and Folt and decided to look to greener, or at least saner, pastures.

We do know that if all had gone according to plan last year, a new leader would have settled in by now in Cullowhee.

It’s an important job. WCU is an economic engine, a vital advocate for Jackson County and proud defender of our culture. It provides the education for and leaders who will shape our tomorrows and our future dreams.

Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar stepped in to serve as acting (now interim) chancellor and has provided steady leadership in a turbulent time for a campus mourning the loss of its beloved leader.

Now, the time for a permanent choice to lead WCU has come ‘round. We hope that effort is carried out without undue meddling from afar.

In short, we hope past performance might not be indicative of future results.

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