Education, Higher Ed

Peter Hans elected UNC System President

In an emergency meeting Friday morning, the UNC Board of Governors unanimously elected Peter Hans the next UNC System President.

Hans, who now serves as as president of the North Carolina Community College System, will take the university’s system’s top leadership spot Aug. 1.

“Peter has long distinguished himself as a visionary leader who not only understands, but who is leading the charge for the future of higher education,” said UNC Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey.“We believe there is no one better suited to lead our university system into the future — even if that future may be very different than the one we all thought it would be six months ago. We are delighted to have Peter Hans as our new president and look forward to the transition process.”

“Peter Hans passionately believes that North Carolina’s future depends on education, and he has a long track record of uniting people and institutions in pursuit of shared goals,” said Dr. Bill Roper, who has served as  interim president of the UNC System since Margaret Spellings abruptly left the position last year.

UNC System President-elect Peter Hans speaks to the UNC Board of Governors following his election Friday morning.

“I am confident that, with today’s decision, great things are ahead for the UNC System and for our great state,” Roper said.

Hans has led the state’s community college system for the last two years. Before that, he was an advisor to Spellings on technology, health care, strategic planning and K-12 education. He served on the UNC Board of Governors from 2003 to 2014, serving as chair of the board from 2012 to 2014.

Ramsey said the people of North Carolina want a leader who can rise above partisan politics — a serious problem on the tumultuous and highly political board of governors over the last few years.

Hans does have a partisan political history. He served as senior policy advisor to U.S. Senators Lauch Faircloth (R) and Richard Burr (R) and was a campaign advisor for Senator Elizabeth Dole (R).

But those who have worked with Hans said he has a history of reaching across the aisle and operating in an inclusive and non-partisan way.

Friday morning Gov. Roy Cooper (D), State Senate leader President Pro Tem Phil Berger  (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) released a joint statement praising the choice of Hans.

“Peter Hans has done tremendous work as president of the N.C. Community College System, and he’s the right choice for UNC System President,” the three said in a statement. “That we all agree on Peter is a testament to the respect he commands as an able, competent leader.”

Two of the system’s previous presidents, Spellings and Erskine Bowles,  also issued statements praising Hans as the board’s choice Friday. Spellings is a prominent Republican who served as Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush while Bowles, a Democrat, was chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

“Congratulations to my dear friend and colleague Peter Hans, who has committed his career on the state and national levels to advancing and enriching the lives of all North Carolinians,” Spellings said in a statement. “Whether as a trusted advisor to me at the UNC System or as President of the NC Community Colleges, Peter has worked tirelessly to improve student achievement, enhance educational access, and ensure college affordability for all students. I wish Peter the greatest success as he takes the helm of the System during this critical time.”

Bowles said Hans has “the people skills, the experience and the leadership strengths needed to push the university forward in a nonpartisan manner, to meet the challenges and opportunities we face today and will face in the future.”

“I am delighted that the UNC Board of Governors has elected Peter Hans to serve as the president of the University of North Carolina,” said Bowles said in a statement. “Peter served as vice chairman of the UNC Board of Governors during my tenure as UNC President. I’ve seen firsthand the real love Peter has for our state and our university, as well as the deep appreciation he has of the critically important role that the University’s 17 campuses play in the future of North Carolina and our people.”

Hans’ base salary as president will be $400,000 — dramatically lower than Spellings or Roper, Roper now makes $775,000 per year, with a $77,500 annual retirement contribution and the possibility of up to $125,000 in an annual performance bonus. An additional $600,000 will be possible as incentive pay based on his performance on three metrics  — increasing on-time graduation rates for first-time and transfer undergraduate students, reducing expenses per degree completed, and reducing student loan debt per undergraduate students as a percentage of per-capita income.

UNC Board of Governors member Jim Holmes said Hans preferred that compensation arrangement and praised him for it.

In a brief press conference after his election Hans said he believes the university system can learn a lot from the state’s underrated community colleges — including making transfers between schools easier, stretching their dollars and the importance of taxpayers as stakeholders.

He declined to get into his ideas for the system in detail, saying Roper will be president until August and the system should have just one leader at a time.

“Stay tuned,” he said.

Education, Higher Ed, News

Sources: New UNC System President to be elected Friday

The UNC Board of Governors will meet in an emergency video conference Friday morning to hold an UNC System presidential election vote.

Two members of the board have confirmed to Policy Watch that the new president will be Peter Hans, current president of the North Carolina Community College System.

Policy Watch agreed not to reveal the board members’ identities so that they could discuss the confidential search process and closed-session deliberations.

Peter Hans

Board members think highly of Hans’s stewardship of the community college system. He’s also a former UNC Board of Governors chairman, having served three terms on the board. Before becoming head of the state’s community colleges two years ago he was an advisor to former UNC System President Margaret Spellings.

“He knows the system, he knows the board and he is proven as a leader,” one UNC Board of Governors member told Policy Watch Thursday afternoon. “We’ve been convinced we have the talent right here in North Carolina to elect a president. I think it is likely this will be a unanimous vote.”

Hans’s candidacy has been rumored for weeks. As the board’s selection committee held two days of interviews this week, the buzz that he would be the choice grew louder.

On Wednesday evening Durham attorney Greg Doucette, who was a board member during his time as a student, posted on Twitter that several sources confirmed Hans would be the next system president.

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper was scheduled to leave the system’s top leadership position at the end of June. In April, as the presidential search was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he agreed to stay until the search was concluded.

Roper has served as interim president since November 2018. Before that, he was CEO of UNC Health Care for 14 years and dean of the public health school at UNC-Chapel Hill.

As interim president Roper now makes $775,000 per year, with a $77,500 annual retirement contribution and the possibility of up to $125,000 in an annual performance bonus.

Education, Higher Ed

UNC-Chapel Hill lifts moratorium on renaming buildings, promises to face campus’ racial history


UNC-Chapel Hill students and community members hold signs illuminating the history of building names on campus. Photo: Joe Killian

The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to lift its self-imposed moratorium on the renaming of buildings and historic places on campus, setting the stage to remove the names of Confederate and white supremacist historic figures from places of honor there.

The move comes after years of student and faculty efforts to overturn the renaming ban, which was put in place in 2015 as national sentiment rose against the honoring of Confederate figures, slave owners and avowed white supremacists. Though students, faculty and staff at the school have pushed for decades to rename some of its buildings, this week’s vote comes in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the resulting international protests against police violence against Black people and racial disparities in the U.S.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz addressed Wednesday’s meeting of the school’s board of trustees, saying the lifting of the moratorium is just one part of a commitment to greater racial equity at the school.

“Systemic racism is part of institutions across our country and we have been challenged by this here in Chapel Hill over the years,” Guskiewicz said. “But our faculty, staff and students have pushed to make UNC better for decades — as have you, members of our board. But it’s clear that we’ve move too slowly at times. We haven’t done enough to be the campus community we aspire to be at times.”

Though no steps toward actually renaming anything on campus were discussed Wednesday, board members and the chancellor made it clear they mean to get that process under way.

“This puts us on a road to take meaningful actions,” Guskiewicz said of lifting the ban. “Actions that we’ve talked about on many occasions.”

As with the movement against the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam, those pushing to rename buildings on campus faced significant resistance from university administration, the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and some members of the UNC Board of Governors.

But in 2015, they scored a qualified victory. The Board of Trustees agreed to rename Saunders Hall. The building was named for William Saunders – a Confederate colonel, UNC trustee and leader of the state’s Ku Klux Klan. The trustees faced mounting pressure to remove his name, but stopped short of renaming it for Black anthropologist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston, as many students preferred. Instead, they opted for the more neutral “Carolina Hall,” and also imposed a 16-year moratorium on renaming buildings on campus.

Last August, Policy Watch reported members of the UNC Board of Trustees — including Chairman Richard Stevens — were open to a discussion of ending that moratorium.

Stevens likened his shifting perspective on UNC’s building names to his views on the Silent Sam Confederate monument, which was toppled by protesters.

“I’ve had the benefit of more frequent discussions with students and with faculty of color,” Stevens said. “I understand much better now their opposition to Silent Sam and now my position is I don’t think it should come back to McCorkle Place.”

In February, faculty delivered a petition to administration on the issue.

On Wednesday, Guskiewicz promised that this step will the first in an ongoing effort to face UNC-Chapel Hill’s history and build a more inclusive future.

“This history of our university mirrors that of our nation,” he said. “Our campus has struggled with reconciling our history just as many other universities have.”

“To be the nation’s leading global public research university we need a deeper commitment to reconciling our history of racial injustice with a commitment to racial equity and inclusivity,” Guskiewicz said.

Look for further coverage of this issue — at UNC Chapel Hill and beyond — tomorrow at NC Policy Watch.

COVID-19, Education, Higher Ed, News

UNC-Chapel Hill faculty survey shows instructors unsure about safety of return to campus

This week the UNC Faculty Executive Committee published the results of a survey of more than 1,200 instructors regarding the school’s controversial plan to return to on-campus instruction in August.

The results show a faculty that remains unsure enough precautions are in place to protect them from COVID-19 as the pandemic continues in North Carolina, with record days of both infections and hospitalizations recorded in the last week.

Asked whether they believe enough safety precautions are in place under the campus’ current plan, 34 percent said they were not sure. Twenty-one percent said they disagreed enough precautions were in place and 20 percent said they strongly disagreed.

More than a quarter of the respondents said they were unsure if they felt comfortable returning to on-campus instruction under the current plan. Another quarter said they strongly disagreed that they were comfortable and nearly 20 percent said they disagreed that they were comfortable.


Read the entire survey, including information about sampling and methodology, here.

COVID-19, Education, Higher Ed, News

UNC System Presidential candidates to be interviewed beginning next week

The UNC Board of Governors’ Presidential Search Committee will begin interviewing candidates for the next president of the UNC System next week.

The search committee met in closed session Friday. While it made no public announcements, the committee did set another meeting for 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

The Bell Tower on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The search for the system’s next leader has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, the search committee director Kim Strach reported it had 36 applicants from across the U.S. and several from other countries. The selection process is confidential and none of the candidates are being identified publicly.

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper was scheduled to leave the system’s top leadership position at the end of June. But as Policy Watch reported last month, he has agreed to stay until the search is concluded. The timeline for his replacement is still unclear and depends on progress on slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Roper has been serving as interim president since November 2018. Before that, he was CEO of UNC Health Care for 14 years and dean of the public health school at UNC-Chapel Hill.

As interim president he now makes $775,000 per year, with a $77,500 annual retirement contribution and the possibility of up to $125,000 in an annual performance bonus.