Campus News

Doing the right thing

George Battle, the University's first vice chancellor for institutional integrity and risk management, describes his job as "doing the right thing the right way all the time."

Man in gray suit talking and gesturing with his hands
Vice Chancellor Battle is doing his "due diligence" now, "talking to people, going places across the University, reading — any information, any points of view that I can get, I’m seeking those out. " (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Carolina’s first vice chancellor for institutional integrity and risk management is double-Tar Heel and former student body president George Battle III ’95, ’99 (JD).  

This new senior leadership position will coordinate functions that have historically been decentralized at Carolina: central compliance; enterprise and risk management; public safety; environment, health and safety; emergency management; ethics education; and policy management. The creation of the position and their hiring of Battle to fill it is one of the changes cited by Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz as a key change to make campus safer for students, faculty, staff and visitors. 

A Charlotte native, Battle has an extensive legal background in litigation, regulatory compliance and enterprise risk management. For the past nine years, he served as general counsel to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. Before that, he provided legal counsel and advisory service for Carolinas Healthcare System.  

As Battle settled into his new office in South Building, The Well sat down with him to learn more about his approach to his job and his return to Carolina.  

man in blue suit posed in a lobby

George Battle III (Photo by Jon Gardiner, UNC-Chapel Hill)

Q. This is an entirely new position at the University. How would you describe what a vice chancellor for institutional integrity and risk management does? 

A. The University has made a clear commitment to integrity. I define integrity as doing the right thing the right way all the time. And I think that’s my job, in a nutshell, to make sure that we get as close to that as possible in the areas that are assigned to me. 

QYour office oversees a wide range of functions. Why do these functions belong together? What do they have in common?  

A. All of these functions to one degree or another are involved with protecting the University: protecting the University’s reputation, protecting the University’s people, protecting the University’s property. All of them are involved in helping the University make good, informed decisions and to make the most of resources that the people of this state have given us.  

Q. How will you make campus safer?  

 A. I’m just one small part of a larger strategy enacted by our chancellor, who has clearly made safety a priority. That makes my job a lot easier, when the chancellor outlines it as a priority. Having all these like-minded groups together, which are involved in protecting the University in one way or the other, will increase our effectiveness. The lessons learned by some of the challenges of the past will certainly make us better. And I think bringing a different perspective is always helpful. These folks are already doing a phenomenal job, and I see my role as just doing whatever I can to support them and help them shine even brighter. 

Q. How will you balance keeping the campus open to the public and keeping it secure for the people who live and work here?  

 A. One of the great things about this place is that it is the University of the people. And we can’t lose that character and keep our place in the hearts and minds of the people of this state. We’re going to have to find that balance and maintain it. That’s something that I look at and I think about every day, and I know that our folks think about it every day. I can assure you that it’s top of mind and a top priority. We don’t want to create an environment that, in striving for security, undercuts the broader mission of this University. I think it was Ben Franklin who said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” I don’t think we go to that extreme. I think we can have both. We can be both secure and maintain the openness and the character of this University. 

The main thing that I want to do is come in and learn, get a lot of input and make sure that I don’t break anything that’s working. You’re able to accomplish a lot more if you do your due diligence on the front end. I’m talking to people, going places across the University, reading — any information, any points of view that I can get, I’m seeking those out. 

Q. How does your experience as a student leader inform how you approach your job now?  

A. I think one of the things that I learned as student body president was just the degree of difficulty in actually operating this place. Serving a year on the Board of Trustees, interacting with the faculty and staff and Chancellor (Paul) Hardin, at that time, was certainly helpful in learning how the University operated. A lot has changed in that 25 years, but I think that was a good start.  

One of the things that I appreciated most were those administrators who listened to me. We may not always have agreed, but they listened and they did incorporate the input that I was bringing on behalf of the students. It certainly made me feel more connected to the campus, and I think it builds our connections with students. 

Q. One of your charges is to help establish a University-wide enterprise risk management operation to identify and mitigate risks affecting our academic mission or strategic objectives. How will you approach this task?  

A. We have various tools already at our disposal for risk management — some of our compliance functions, some of the traditional things like insurance that people think of when they think of risk management. But I think we’re looking to take it in a more proactive direction, making sure that we account for the risks in our decisions and make sure that our leaders have complete information in the proper context as they’re making decisions. 

Q. What risks most concern you?  

A. I think the biggest risk we – any organization, not just UNC — have is making decisions in the dark without considering all the relevant implications. Then you can argue that you’re not really making choices. You’re kind of gambling. And your odds of making a good decision are a lot better if you can account for and prepare for the externalities of your decision. 

Q. How can employees help identify and mitigate these risks? 

A. I think they do, every day. I think employees genuinely see this place as more than just a job. And they value this place and they make their voices heard. I think that’s contributed to the success of Carolina, and I’m looking forward to it continuing. 

Q. Another part of your role is to safeguard the University’s academic research and educational activities from outside threats. How will you protect the University from these threats? 

A. We’re not unique. This is an issue that a lot of universities nationwide are facing. Universities are inherently collaborative places, and it’s unfortunate that some actors would seek to take advantage of that collaboration. We already have a number of great programs and people in place to help with this issue. I’m hoping to do a small part to make sure that we are secure, but not to kill the fundamental nature of the University and of research. That balance of openness and security comes into play here, too. We want to strike that right balance. 

Q. What else would you like to say to the Carolina community? 

A. I’m just happy to be here. I had a great career in Charlotte, but this is a special place, and I’m looking forward to being here, to being part of the life of the community. I am honored to be an employee here. And I’m very grateful to the chancellor and to the trustees for giving me the opportunity to come home.