UNC Board of Governors could see term limits, if bill passes

Note: This post has been updated to reflect information provided by the UNC system. 

A Senate bill capping the terms of members on the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors moved through a House Rules committee Monday, and could potentially shift at least two current members off the board, if passed.

UNCsystemAn individual could serve three, four-year terms (a total of 12 years) under Senate Bill 670, which was headed to the House floor and possible passage during what appears to be the final week of the legislative session.

The current UNC Board of Governors’ policy limits members to three consecutive, four-year terms, while the bill being proposed by Sen. Tom Apodaca would apply to both consecutive and non-consecutive terms.

The full House will vote on the measure tonight.

There are currently three members on the UNC Board of Governors who are in the midst of their third or fourth terms, according to information provided by the UNC system.

John Fennebresque, the chair of UNC Board of Governors and a Charlotte attorney, received a four-year apointment from 1995 to 1999, as well as appointments from 2011 to 2015, according to information provided by a UNC system spokeswoman . He was re-appointed to his third term this spring.

Craig Souza and Frank Grainger are serving their fourth terms on the board. Both men served three, four-year terms from 1997 to 2009. Grainger rejoined the board for his fourth term in 2011, and Souza re-joined in 2013.

Hannah Gage, a former board chair, was a voting member of the UNC Board of Governors from 2001 to 2013. She is now serving in a non-voting, emeritus position.

The state legislature is responsible for appointing all 32 members of North Carolina’s governing board for its public university system. That’s led to significant changes to how the board does business, now that all 32 members currently serving have gotten their appointments from Republican-dominated state legislature after decades of Democratic control.

Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican, introduced the bill regarding the term limits and said Monday it would affect three of the board’s current 32 members if and when it became law.

He did not name the three individuals, and it’s unclear if he was referring to Souza, Grainger, Fennebresque or Gage.

State Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, an Apex Republican, voted against the bill, saying lawmakers could just choose not to reappoint those members, if they felt they had been in their positions too long.

“I’m just wondering why” legislation for term limits are needed, Stam said in committee Monday. “You don’t have to re-elect them to a fourth term.”

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Trouble brewing amongst the UNC Board of Governors?

Things are apparently not going that well behind the scenes with the University of North Carolina system’s Board of Governors.

The 32-member board is in the midst of selecting a new president for the UNC system, and that process has some members grumbling, according to today’s piece from the News & Observer’s Jane Stancill.

From Stancill’s article:

The search for the next UNC system president has become bogged down with disagreements among UNC Board of Governors members and concerns about secrecy.

The board’s 11-member search committee met behind closed doors late Thursday to discuss its next steps. Last week, the committee interviewed about 10 candidates over a three-day period at meetings in Cary.

Board chairman John Fennebresque described the candidates’ quality as “superb,” but added that committee members hadn’t even started the hard part.

Apparently, they’ve hit the hard part.

Rumors have circulated that some candidates have dropped out, and board members not on the committee say they have been kept in the dark about progress of the search.

This week, a key member of the board, Jim Holmes, abruptly resigned his post as chairman of the board’s public affairs committee, saying that he was unfairly accused of meddling in the search by the head of the search committee.

You can read the entire piece here.

Also of note, the conservative John W. Pope Center for Higher Education also published an opinion piece of its own this week, criticizing the UNC Board of Governors for not making enough conservative-minded reforms.


UNC system leaders happy with budget (despite some cuts), on way to choosing new president

University system leaders are happy with how they emerged in the state budget, saying they were grateful lawmakers opted to fund enrollment growth and other asks they had.

UNC system president Tom Ross (left) and John Fennebresque, UNC Board of Governor, in file photo.

UNC system president Tom Ross (left) and John Fennebresque, UNC Board of Governor, in file photo.

John Fennebresque, a Charlotte attorney who serves as the chair of University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors, called the $100 million overall increase for the university system “the best budget” since the Recession began in 2008.

Among the things lawmakers opted to fund in the two-year budget signed into law this afternoon by Gov. Pat McCrory were annual enrollment growth costs of $49 million, and earmarked dollars to vshore up East Carolina University’s medical school and Elizabeth City State University.

Chancellors will also be able to carry over financial savings they might find on their campuses to future years, in order to fund other priorities.

Those words of praise about the budget came despite the UNC system being handed $64.4 million in discretionary cuts over the next two years, and following nearly $500 million in cuts the system has weathered since 2010.

UNC system staff and faculty, like all state employees, also received a $750 bonus in the budget instead of any type of permanent salary adjustment.

Tom Ross, the president of the UNC system, said that he viewed the budget overall as a positive for the UNC system in comments he made during Friday’s meeting.

“Our enrollment was fully funded for both years,” Ross said, referring to the additional $49 million each year allotted to cover increasing numbers of students. “We’ve got to have the resources to educate the students when they come.”

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What the state budget does (and doesn’t do) for public education

Here’s a quick take on how North Carolina’s educational institutions fared in its overdue two-year budget unveiled last night. (Click here to read or peruse the 429-page budget.)

The Senate holds its first vote on the budget this afternoon, the House is expected to take it up on Thursday.

Reaction was mixed to the budget, when it came to education.

“The General Assembly’s budget doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of our students and public schools,” said Rodney Ellis, the head of the N.C. Association of Educators, in a statement. “North Carolina can’t afford to lose a generation of students by disregarding the resources they need to be successful.”

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Search for UNC’s next president picking up, down to individual candidates

The search for the next president of the University of North Carolina system is moving along quickly, with a search committee now looking at individual candidates.

UNCsystemAn announcement came last night that the presidential search committee will meet three times over the next week for “candidate review.” The meetings will be held on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, on SAS’s Campus in Cary.

“They are down to the point where they are considering individual candidates more closely,” said Joni Worthington, a spokeswoman for the UNC system.

The meetings begin at 8 a.m. on Sunday, and at 8:30 a.m. Monday and Tuesday, according to a meeting notice distributed to media.

(Ann Goodnight, wife of SAS co-founder Jim Goodnight, is a former UNC Board of Governor member serving on the presidential search committee).

The current UNC President Tom Ross will stay in his job until January, and the governing board has indicated it hopes to have his successor announced this fall.

The presidential search committee will present its choice to the full Board of Governors, which is meeting next week in Winston-Salem. The following meeting will be at the end of October, in Chapel Hill.

The presidential search meetings next week have to be publicly announced and are considered public meetings, though the bulk of the meeting will be held in closed session, in line with the board’s decision to keep the search for the next UNC system president confidential.

Other states take different tactics when it comes to confidentiality, with the names of final candidates for public higher education posts sometimes released to the public or opportunities for candidates to meet with major stakeholders like faculty and staff.

That was the case this month in Iowa, where the new head of the that system, former IBM executive Bruce Harreld, is now facing resistance from faculty, staff and student groups worried about his lack of higher education experience.

Harreld, when he met with faculty during the interview process in Iowa, also rankled faculty with a comment he learned about the University of Iowa system from Wikipedia.

Here in North Carolina, the UNC Board of Governors fired its current president Tom Ross last January, for reasons that still have not been fully explained other than a general desire for change and new direction.

Ross, a Democrat, has led the UNC system since 2011, a time when the system contended with significant funding cuts from the state legislature and while higher education rapidly underwent changes overall.

The current 32 members of the UNC Board of Governor all received their appointments from a N.C. General Assembly dominated by Republicans.