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UNC Board of Governors task force looks to streamline meetings

The UNC Board of Governors’ Task Force on Board Meetings met Wednesday, putting together a series of suggestions for streamlining meetings.

The meeting comes as a more conservative wing of the 28-member board has begun to flex its muscle, criticizing some of the board’s traditional practices as outdated and inefficient.

By statute, the board must meet six times per year – but some members of the board believe members could make those meetings shorter and more productive.

On Wednesday Tom Fetzer, newly appointed board member and chairman of the task force, outlined a series of potential changes:

* Ending the practice of expecting chancellors of UNC campuses to attend each meeting. Instead, the board would make attendance explicitly optional, allowing them to tele-conference or video-conference if needed.

* Begin either live-streaming or video recording and archiving not only full board meetings but also committee meetings.

* Encourage those who are making presentations to the board to provide their materials to board members ahead of time, perhaps including videos of their full presentations, to allow for more discussion and less passive listening by board members during full meetings.

* Reducing or doing away with ceremonial and social parts of full board meetings so that members can skip them if necessary and spend more meeting time actively tackling university system business.

The task force will prepare a report on its recommendations for the full board by October 20 – though not all members agreed on the details of the suggestions.

UNC System President Margaret Spellings, on hand for Wednesday’s meeting, said some chancellors had expressed concerns that their interests won’t be well represented unless they attend in person.

“They believe it may be a case of, ‘If you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu,'” Spellings said.

Several task force members suggested each meeting could feature 10 to 15 minute reports from three chancellors, rotating through all the UNC campus’ leaders throughout the year.

When you give any of those chancellors a platform, you’d better put a time limit on it,” said Michael Williford. “Because they are going to exceed it. This is all about time constraints and putting things in some sort of regulatory order. That’s their deal is to advocate for their campus.”

Williford and Spellings were both skeptical of a proposal to remove things like awards to professors and staff members to board get-togethers outside of meetings, saying that doing it during the meetings provides an important public recognition for those people to which they often invite family members.

The board’s members spent much of the meeting debating the possibility of live streaming or recording the board’s committee meetings, where they would like to see more proactive discussion happening.

Board member Marty Kotis, participating in the meeting via teleconference, said he believed it could be done more inexpensively than the $10,000 to $40,000 estimate given by staff – the higher number representing live streaming, the lower video archiving.

“We could do it with a phone and a YouTube channel for almost no cost,” Kotis said.

Kotis, a Greensboro businessman, offered to help the staff figure out a lower cost method of achieving the same result.

Fetzer said he believed savings in time and travel for board members, chancellors and staff would justify the investment.

A separate Task Force on the Purpose of UNC General Administration will meet Monday, October 9 at at 10 a.m. in Room 128 at the Center for School Leadership Development at 140 Friday Center Drive, Chapel Hill, NC.

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