Commentary

Weekend editorials decry chaos in UNC search

Groucho Marx

Image: Wikipedia

The slow motion train wreck that is the UNC presidential search (be sure to check out this morning’s John Cole editorial cartoon) provoked scathing editorials over the weekend from three of the state’s major newspapers.

This is from the Charlotte Observer:

“Groucho Marx said he didn’t want to belong to any club that would accept people like him as a member. And we’re not sure we want any UNC system president who’s willing to work for this Board of Governors’ club.

The circus around the University of North Carolina’s search for a new president made national headlines Friday. It came complete with an emergency meeting that may have broken state law, calls for chairman John Fennebresque’s head, allegations that a leading candidate is ‘fruit from a poisonous tree,’ and a momentary cameo appearance by a national figure whose presence was supposed to be kept secret.

In a sane world, the UNC Board of Governors would spend its time lobbying for adequate funding, advocating for faculty, staff and students, supporting a strong system president and generally striving to keep the University of North Carolina among the top public higher education systems in the nation.

In the real world, they fire an esteemed president, botch the handling of it, insert politics into decision-making, then make the search for a new president a hot mess of infighting and finger-pointing.”

From Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“The fiasco this search has become was born out of political motivations to fire Ross, a Democrat, by a board now overwhelmingly dominated by Republicans but not by experience. As the search has gone on and been hobbled by infighting, the board’s reputation, already damaged by the Ross firing, has been wounded. The absurdity of the situation is that the struggle isn’t between legislative leaders and some rogue board of holdover Democrats. The board that Berger and others are so at odds with is the one they handpicked.

The board should call off this bungled effort before it hurts the university itself. It should ask Ross to stay in office and take time to reconsider its decision. And when the time comes to select a president, one hopes board members will be sobered by the mistakes they’ve made. The 32 spots on the Board of Governors were viewed as perhaps the most prestigious such positions in the state. But now … now they’re close to becoming a punchline.”

And this is from the Greensboro News & Record:

“Friday’s UNC Board of Governors train wreck was set in motion back in January, but it wasn’t inevitable. Chairman John Fennebresque could have applied the brakes before running off the rails. Instead, he accelerated. Now, tremendous damage has been done and many people have been hurt — not least a former U.S. secretary of education who might have become the next UNC president. Or still might….

Vice Chairman Lou Bissette, a search committee member, assured board members in an email Thursday night that the final candidate ‘has the ability, energy and savvy to lead this System to the heights that we all envision for our beloved University.’ Good. But that sounds like a decision has been made, which is a problem. The full board wants, and deserves, more input.

This has turned into a train wreck for the entire state.”

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