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The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors pushed out the head of the state’s university system on Friday, sparking a search for a new leader of the 17-campus system.

Tom Ross, who had served as president since 2011, will remain in the president’s role until January 2016, while a national search is underway for his successor.

tom-ross

UNC President Tom Ross

Precise reasons for his announced departure weren’t articulated Friday, other than statements from UNC Board of Governors Chair John Fennebresque about the board’s general desire for a transition to a new leader.

The UNC Board of Governors met for close to two hours in closed session before announcing the changes.

“The board felt like at the appropriate time there should be a transition to a new president,” Fennebresque said, in comments to reporters.

Fennebresque also disputed media reports that Ross’ age was a factor. Ross is 64, and prior UNC system presidents had left their positions at 65. Ross said he was interested in working past that, and had hoped to continue in the job leading the public university system.

“I love it and I would love to be here forever,” Ross said.

Ross’ new terms of employment with the university system includes a salary of $600,000 for the next year, a tenured position at the UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government and $300,000 for a year to conduct research following his expected 2016 departure from the president’s office.

Conversations about Ross’ termination only began this week, Ross said, and he wasn’t made aware of any single event or issue that turned the Board of Governors against him.

Fennebresque went to lengths at a press conference with reporters to emphasize that Ross had been a strong leader that had the support of the board of governors, despite Friday’s announcement that the board wanted to part ways.

“This board believes Tom Ross has been a wonderful president,” Fennebresque told reporters Friday after the announcement about Ross. “Fantastic work ethic, perfect integrity.”

Ross’ departure was announced Friday after months of speculation about his future after his relationship with the UNC Board of Governors became more fraught.

Ross came to the UNC system after serving as the president of the private Davidson College. He previously had worked as a judge, the head of the state’s administrative office for the courts, and the executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, a Winston-Salem based group that funds several progressive nonprofits in the state. (Note: the N.C. Justice Center, which N.C. Policy Watch is a part of, receives annual funding from ZSR.)

He led the university through a period of rapid change, and significant budget cuts. The university system received more than $400 million worth of cuts in 2011,

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Commentary

UNCThere were lots of compelling responses delivered by the defenders of various UNC Centers at yesterday’s inquisition in Chapel Hill, but one of the best came from Dean Jack Boger of the UNC Law School.

This is from the account in Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Boger pointed out that the law school’s Banking Institute was created to support the banking industry in North Carolina. ‘We don’t ask that center to consider socialism as an alternative or to talk about the dissolution of large banks,’ he said. Boger also pointed out that public health professors advocate against sugary drinks in the fight against obesity.”

Boger’s observation neatly highlighted the central absurdity of the ideological attack on the various UNC Centers launched by surrogates for right-wing financier/politico and wannabe UNC prez, Art Pope: Pope has already won. It is already the mission of a vast swath of the UNC system to support, defend, apologize for and train the future leaders of  North Carolina’s corporate business establishment. Read More

Commentary

Art Pope 3Phil BergerThe talk about Medicaid expansion for North Carolina in 2015 from political leaders without much power to do anything about it continues. Gov. McCrory and his HHS Secretary keep talking about expansion as does, rather amusingly, lame duck Speaker/U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis. Obviously, expansion would be a terrific thing and is horrifically overdue as the current absurd obstructionism is literally costing thousands of lives per year — all in the name of nothing but conservative ideology.

Sadly, however, neither of these stances by McCrory or Tillis will amount to a hill of beans come next legislative session unless the real conservative bosses in North Carolina politics give their assent. Those two bosses, of course, would be Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and the most important conservative power broker in state politics, Art Pope. After all, the General Assembly has already passed a law to prevent McCrory from doing the deed without their approval and, for all we know, Tillis could well be reduced to trolling the halls of the General Assembly next year as a lobbyist or McCrory lackey.

Meanwhile, there are few if any positive signals from Berger and Pope to be found. Berger says he’s still opposed and Pope…well, his hirelings continue to spout mean-spirited nonsense and gibberish on the subject.

Of course, all of this could change. The powers-that-be in the health care industry want expansion and understand the tremendous good it would do — both for people and in need and, perhaps even more importantly from the corporate perspective, their profits. Add to this the fact that conservative majorities in the General Assembly could be slightly smaller next year and there’s certainly reason to hope that the politics on the issue will continue to improve.

That said, when you’re dealing with true right-wing believers who don’t even bat an eye as their policies literally result in thousands of unnecessary deaths per year, it’s hard to see what’s going to bring about the change of heart. Moreover, at this point in his governorship, Pat McCrory gives literally no indication that he has the ability lead or shape the debate.

Commentary

Conspiracy kooksThe folks over on Right-wing Avenue — yeah, you know, the supposedly nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organizations that have been acting as virtual auxiliaries of the campaign of one of the two main U.S. Senate candidates in recent weeks — have a lot of troubling friends and allies on the fringe.

Take, for instance the website “Triad Conservative” (to which one can link directly from the Locke Foundation’s “Piedmont Publius” blog). This is from an article that appeared on the site over the weekend entitled “Time to Entertain Secession?”:

“Matthew Staver of Liberty Counsel argues that we are witnessing the end of Western Civilization.  He is essentially correct.  Western Civilization over the last two millenia has been intrinsically Christian.  Our national government is now post-Christian, post-modern and indeed anti-Christian.  And Greensboro’s own Kay Hagan has been at the forefront of this change.

The United States is no longer a fundamentally good country.”

The post concludes this way:

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Commentary

As reported here and on several other news sites in recent days (click here and here), the conservative, win-at-all-costs ideologues over at the Koch-Pope group, Americans for Prosperity, have been distributing misleading voter registration materials in recent days. A Charlotte Observer editorial over the weekend charitably described the situation this way:

With all the confusion around controversial new N.C. voting laws – laws being challenged in court that could be stayed before the November election – voters didn’t need a partisan group mucking up things even more. But that’s what has happened.

According to the N.C. Board of Elections, Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative group, has created quite a headache by sending out incorrect voter registration information, including what was dubbed an “official” voter registration form. But the form was fraught with errors and conflicting information, including the deadline to register, whom to send voter registration information to, and who answers queries about voter information.

The State Board of Elections says it has received hundreds of complaints from people receiving the forms. “It’s caused a lot of confusion,” said Joshua Lawson, a public information officer for the board. He noted that the board of elections works with political groups to prevent just this kind of misinformation, but Americans for Prosperity didn’t contact the board about the mailings.

The paper went on to say that the least the Koch-Popers could do is apologize, but true to form, the conservative crusaders are unrepentant. On Friday, the group issued a statement saying it “stands behind” the misleading and deceptive effort.

Of course, if you think about it, such a stance makes sense. If Americans for Prosperity started apologizing for every deceptive or misleading thing it produced, the group wouldn’t have much time to do anything else.