Higher Ed

Former UNC BOG members speak out on good governance, take current members to task

In a rare move, a group of ten former members of the UNC Board of Governors penned a letter this week taking current board members to task for what they describe as “clearly bad governance.”

The letter, posted Wednesday on the Higher Education Works website, criticized the board for disregarding the UNC President’s recommended candidate for the Chancellor’s post at Western Carolina University. Instead current board member Tom Fetzer, who had some interest in the WCU job for himself, sought out a third party to do a background check on the recommended candidate.

Former members also expressed their displeasure in ongoing efforts to micromanage and undermine the decisions of system President Margaret Spellings.

Here’s an excerpt:

A lot of very smart people have judged our University System to be the most valuable asset this state has. Our system of higher education is respected nationally as one of the best. It is what has set this state apart for decades. It has helped make us the forward-thinking state we have always been considered. Without it, we would not have the Research Triangle Park, one of the most successful research parks in the world, fostered by visionary leaders in business and academia.

Unfortunately, it appears our Board of Governors has become increasingly politicized, and some members are conflicted. Politics has no place in the selection of members, and any conflicts of interest must be avoided. Boards must have a high level of independence and professionalism to be effective.

What we saw last month was not good governance. Our state, our President, our faculty, our students, our entire University System deserve better. What we witnessed will negatively affect the quality of people willing to come to our Universities as Chancellors, faculty and staff.

Good governance has many positive aspects. Maybe the most important is to attract and retain great talent and leadership. We ask our legislators and our Board of Governors to remember that they serve the people of North Carolina. They can and should do better.

The letter is signed by the following former members of the UNC Board of Governors: Paul Fulton, Ann Goodnight, Fred Eshelman, Derick Close, Brad Wilson, Jim Deal, Peaches Gunter Blank, Leroy Lail, Phil Phillips and Jim Babb.

You can read the full letter here.

Current Board Chair Harry Smith tells the Raleigh News & Observer’s Jane Stancill that the assessment is unfair:

“I thought it was very unfortunate that they decided to take the attack route,” Smith said, adding, “I don’t think Paul Fulton and Higher Ed Works should chastise 28 members that are working hard, based on a handful that got into a tiff.”

For more on recent actions by the Board of Governors, follow reporter Joe Killian’s coverage here.

UNC System President Margaret Spellings

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