East Carolina University’s Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation following allegations of misconduct after photos of him drinking with students at Club 519 on Wednesday, Sept. 25 circulated.
Over the weekend, several local news outlets released photos of Gerlach in Greenville’s downtown area with students. As of yesterday, University of North Carolina (UNC) System Interim President Bill Roper issued a statement in response to the allegations and concerns surrounding Gerlach.
“In light of reports from this past weekend, ECU Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation,” Roper’s statement said.
ECU News Services did not provide a comment in response to Roper’s statement.
Photos of Gerlach in downtown bar, Club 519, surface
According to a statement issued by ECU News Services Interim Chief Communications Officer Jeannine Manning Hutson on Sunday, Sept. 29, the videos and photos taken at Club 519 show Gerlach interacting and taking selfies with “college-aged, young adults.”
“On the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 25, ECU Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach went to Sup Dogs near the campus of the university. While there he ran into two adult male acquaintances who invited him to walk down the street to join them at a local pub, which he did. Gerlach is known for taking selfies with students, staff and faculty on and off-campus,” the Sept. 29 statement said.
Via the Sept. 29 statement from Hutson, Gerlach said prior to him becoming interim Chancellor he had heard the students of ECU were in need of a “present and approachable” leader.
“When I first started here, and even before, one constant concern that I heard was that our students needed a leader of the university to be present and approachable, someone who can speak to them in their language. That’s what I’ve set out to do at ECU. I regret that these photos are being perceived as anything more than what they are,” Gerlach said in the Sept. 29 statement.
Witnesses share their accounts of Gerlach’s Sept. 25 actions
Bartender at Club 519 Greer Jones wasn’t working on Sept. 25 night but was present at the bar at the same time as Gerlach. She said she had never seen Gerlach or the women in the pictures before Sept. 25.
Jones said she arrived at Club 519 around 11 p.m. and Gerlach was already there. Gerlach was with two friends close to his age, she said.
“He was having a good time. I wouldn’t say he wasn’t like drunk or belligerent or anything but he wasn’t sober per se,” Jones said.
The woman in the picture was being aggressive toward Gerlach and other guys in the bar, Jones said. The woman was forcibly removed from the bar after an altercation between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, she said.
According to Jones, Gerlach tried to distance himself from the woman and the woman “reinserted” herself multiple times. The woman came up behind Gerlach and put her arms him a couple of times, she said. Jones said Gerlach did not kiss the woman in the pictures.
Gerlach was only with the students when he was “trying to evade the other girl in the pictures advances,” Jones said.
“I don’t think the pictures are the most accurate portrayal of what was happening. The girl in the photos seemed to be a little aggressive and in my opinion he was being more polite, more passive than being inappropriate,” Jones said.
Club 519 bartender and manager Brandon Smith said he saw Gerlach show up for the first time to the club on Sept. 25. Gerlach was with “highway patrolmen” who were in their late 20s, according to Smith.
Gerlach had a couple shots and a draft beer, Smith said. He wasn’t drinking with students, he was drinking with the people who he came with, according to Smith.
Smith said he saw a picture of the woman hugging Gerlach but he said her advances didn’t go farther than that. The woman was kicked out of the bar after 10 to 15 minutes, Smith said. The woman was making advances toward everyone in the club and when confronted she didn’t take it very well which led to her removal from the club, Smith said.
“The one picture that I’ve seen, she was very forward and she walked in the bar and came onto me and was making sexual advances onto me. I can only imagine because later that night she got kicked out of the bar because she hit someone and we had to get her out of there,” Smith said.
Gerlach seemed approachable, Smith said. He said Gerlach was hanging out in the club with his friends and talked to those who came up to talk to him. Gerlach did not approach students, according to Smith.
UNC System, ECU Board of Trustees officials release statements in response
Yesterday, UNC Board of Governors Interim President Bill Roper released a statement addressed to Pirate Nation. In the statement, he asked Ron Mitchelson, ECU’s Provost and senior vice chancellor of Academic Affairs, to take on the role of Acting Chancellor following Gerlach’s indefinite administrative leave.
“We expect the investigation to be conducted as thoroughly and quickly as possible, with our first priority being what is best for East Carolina University. I thank you and all of Pirate Nation for your understanding during this time,” Roper said in the statement.
ECU News Services released an official statement yesterday afternoon from ECU Board of Trustees Chairman Vern Davenport.
“As Chairman of the ECU Board of Trustees, our first priority is and will always be our students, staff, faculty and alumni of East Carolina University. I have been in regular contact with UNC System Interim President Bill Roper and value the System’s support of ECU and all of Pirate Nation. Along with my fellow trustees and Acting Chancellor Ron Mitchelson, we support President Roper’s decision to conduct a thorough investigation and hope this matter will be addressed as quickly as possible,” the statement said.
In an interview with The East Carolinian, Davenport said as of right now there is not a time frame as to how long the investigation into Gerlach will last. He said the sooner the context of the situation to complete the work, “the better” and there is no intention of “dragging” it out.
Davenport said the situation is an important matter to the university and he expects it to be “expeditiously handled.” He said the UNC System office will investigate the allegations and there are “very clear” lines of communication between ECU and the UNC System office.
“We’re going to do the investigation based on the facts, again, the investigation is going to be conducted by the (UNC) System’s office, but I appreciate all feedback from any member of the ECU ecosystem and have received a ton of those today (Sept. 30),” Davenport said. “We welcome that feedback and input throughout the process.”
Student Government Association President Colin Johnson released an official statement in response to the allegations and concerns surrounding Gerlach, who has been placed on administrative leave until further notice.
“Over the past several months, Dan Gerlach has served East Carolina University with distinction and has been a loyal champion of student needs. The recent reports of Interim Chancellor Gerlach’s behavior are unfortunate. However, it is imperative that we let the investigation of these allegations coincide before making a judgement,” Johnson’s statement said.
Johnson said as student body president he will advocate for the best interests of students. He said he is in open communication with university leaders to ensure the voices of students are heard.
In his statement, Johnson said “Pirate Nation is a proud community” and students deserve a leader who “embodies the spirit of the community.” He encouraged students to contact the SGA office via email at SGA@ECU.EDU if they have thoughts on the situation.
Gerlach responds to situation directly on-air with Pirate Radio
On Monday Sept. 30, Gerlach spoke on Pirate Radio with Troy Dreyfus about videos which surfaced over the weekend.
Following an interview on Sept. 25 at Pirate Radio, Gerlach went to Cypress Glenn, went back to his house on 5th Street. At this time his wife was not home. Gerlach then decided to go have a beer at Sup Dogs, as heard on Pirate Radio.
Gerlach said he began talking to off-duty law enforcement officials who went with him to Club 519 for “a beer or two,” around 9 p.m. or later, as heard on Pirate Radio. Gerlach said he spoke to a Golden Leaf Scholar and her friend, who are both students. Gerlach said during the interview he hung out at Club 519 for a while, which was in one of the pictures that surfaced.
Gerlach said he ran into multiple students during his time at Club 519 which are what most of the videos being shared show, as heard on Pirate Radio.
“I was having a good time. Probably too good of a time. It wasn’t a good judgement choice. Let me stop right here and say I probably should’ve said, ‘One beer and then you know that’s it,’ but good atmosphere (at Club 519). I’d never been in that establishment before, went to another place and that was it,” Gerlach said on Pirate Radio.
Gerlach said he thinks the pictures taken of him with the women were “not a good look,” as heard on Pirate Radio. Gerlach said he is “guilty of poor judgment but not of anything other than that.” He said he didn’t do anything to “justify what’s happening right now.”
Gerlach said he regrets putting himself in that situation and regrets that he is distracting students from their exams and said “it won’t happen again.”
Gerlach said the investigation process is not “completely clear” to him as it is not often chancellors are investigated. He said he believes independent council will be sought out as the UNC System office proceeds with the investigation.
Gerlach said he received a letter from Roper after 4 p.m. on Monday about the numerous stipulations. Gerlach said he wants to get the investigation done quickly and will comply fully.
“I expect, hopefully shortly, hopefully shortly to be reach out by the system office to answer any questions they might have, address any concerns, about this, is this behavior suitable for a chancellor? I made a mistake, chancellors are human’s beings who make mistakes I don’t think it is indicative of my ability to lead the university especially with the great team we have,” Gerlach said on Pirate Radio.