The UNC Board of Governors is expected to end its relationship Friday with Tom Ross, the system president for the last four years.
UPDATE: 12 p.m.: The UNC Board of Governors voted Friday to keep UNC President Tom Ross until January 2016, and begin a national search for his successor.
The new employment agreement will pay Ross a $600,000 salary over the next year, and gives him a tenured position at the Chapel Hill-based School of Government upon his retirement. He will also be paid $300,000 for a year of research leave following his exit from the presidency office.
The decision came after two hours of closed session, and had only one dissenter, Marty Kotis. Kotis said he was objecting because of concerns about the timing and process surrounding Ross’ employment.
“The Board believes President Ross as served with distinction, that his performance has been exemplary, and that he has devoted his full energy, intellect and passion to fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of the office,” according to a joint statement from Ross and the Board of Governors. “The board respects President Ross and greatly appreciates his service to the University and to the State of North Carolina.”
Ross, an attorney and former judge who came to the university in 2011 after leading the private Davidson College, led the university system during a period of massive budget cuts, including $441 million in cuts handed to the schools between 2011 and 2013.
In addition to his higher education work, Ross has also served as a judge, the head of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts and head of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem.
His future with the system had been uncertain as the increasingly conservative members of the board expressed frustrations with the UNC system and Ross’ leadership.
Both WRAL and the News & Observer are also reporting Ross’ departure, citing anonymous sources. He is expected to stay on through January 2016. He is 64 and, though most UNC presidents have left the position at 65, Ross was not interested in leaving, according to the News & Observer’s Jane Stancill.
Ross is expected to speak during Friday’s meeting, where Gov. Pat McCrory is also on hand to address the Board of Governors.
When asked about Ross’ future with the UNC system before the start of Friday’s meeting, Chairman John Fennebresque brushed aside questions from N.C. Policy Watch.
“I don’t want to talk to reporters,” he said.
UPDATE, 10 a.m.: No official statements have been made about Ross’ employment. The UNC Board of Governors, after hearing from Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this morning, went into closed session at 9:45 a.m.
N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who has announced his intentions to run for governor in 2016, released this statement about Ross’ expected departure. His spokeswoman said Cooper has spoken with Ross about the situation.
“I’m deeply concerned that the forcing out of President Ross is another blow to higher education in North Carolina at a time when we need universities to lead in innovation and critical thinking,” Cooper said, according to a written statement. “He has led the University system through difficult times, striving to give students the skills they need for tomorrow’s jobs.”
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