Commentary

Today’s “must read” editorial: UNC Board of Governors should censure Tom Fetzer

In case you missed it, there was a “must read” editorial this morning at WRAL.com about fire-breathing UNC Board of Governors member and former state Republican Party leader Tom Fetzer. The editorial comes as a follow-up to news reports like the one last week from Joe Killian of Policy Watch, detailing Fetzer’s disruptive and inappropriate behavior surrounding the recent botched chancellor hiring at Western Carolina University. This is from “Fetzer out of bounds; UNC board should censure him”:

“Tom Fetzer’s behavior as a member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors isn’t simply rude or self-serving. His latest, self-confessed actions in connection with the recruitment and hiring of a new chancellor for Western Carolina University are disruptive.

They are, by any practical standard unethical, given Fetzer’s direct conflicts of interest in the matter and failure to act appropriately as a member of the board.

The leadership of the board should conduct a thorough examination of Fetzer’s actions. Of greater concern is that Fetzer wasn’t a passive interested party. He is a former member of the Western Carolina Board of Trustees. Further, he had a personal interest in the position. He acknowledged that two former board members recommended Spellings name him interim chancellor. Spellings instead selected Alison Morrison-Shetlar, the university’s provost.

Specifically, the UNC Board should examine the appropriateness of Fetzer – one of the state’s most influential legislative lobbyists and former chairman of the state Republican Party — using his appointed government position to gain access to otherwise confidential information, specifically the names of candidates for the Western Carolina University chancellor’s position. Then, did he violate policy and ethical conduct procedures by giving that confidential information to a private ‘screening’ firm Fetzer personally hired to dig into the background of a candidate for the chancellor’s post?”

The editorial goes on to add this:

“Fetzer has been far from a stabilizing force on the UNC Board. Frankly, he’s been more of a bomb-thrower. While Fetzer says he was just doing his job as a board member – with the actions he took – you don’t need to be a business school graduate to know that if he’d had concerns about the chancellor selection process, or individuals, he should have talked with the board chairman, President Spellings or the chair of the search committee.

He should NOT have taken matters into his own hands, hired his own investigators and then broadcast what was confidential to other members of the UNC board. It demonstrates a lack of discipline. The actions were clearly out of bounds.

Unfortunately, there should be little surprise given the overly partisan and political people that have been appointed to the UNC board. The General Assembly has given board seats to favored lobbyists, loyal former political officeholders and key political donors.

The UNC System, the students and faculty it serves, and the people of North Carolina deserve and need better if the state is to continue to provide top-notch higher education….

The board and the legislators who appoint it must act now to preserve its integrity. Failure to directly deal with it will jeopardize one of the most critical elements to the state’s prosperity and growth.”

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