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If you’re still scratching your head trying to figure out what was behind last week’s decision by the UNC Board of Governor’s to end its relationship with system President Tom Ross, be sure to read today’s Fitzsimon File where Chris works to unravel the mystery. Here’s an excerpt:

A politically appointed board unexpectedly fires a popular and respected president with no notice or no explanation and nobody even owns up to pushing for him to resign.

The head of the board then insists that it wasn’t politics that prompted the president’s dismissal, and says his age wasn’t a factor either, and then proceeds to talk about the incredible job the president is doing.

There is a conspiracy here all right, a carefully orchestrated plan by right-wing political interests to complete their takeover of the state by firing the head of the university system, a public institution that they have been seeking to dismantle for years.

Read Chris’ full column here, and click below to hear Board Chair John Fennebresque try to explain their decision to part ways with President Ross:
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News

tom-rossThe UNC Board of Governors is expected to end its relationship Friday with Tom Ross, the system president for the last four years.

UPDATE: 12 p.m.: The UNC Board of Governors voted Friday to keep UNC President Tom Ross until January 2016, and begin a national search for his successor.

The new employment agreement will pay Ross a $600,000 salary over the next year, and gives him a tenured position at the Chapel Hill-based School of Government upon his retirement. He will also be paid $300,000 for a year of research leave following his exit from the presidency office.

The decision came after two hours of closed session, and had only one dissenter, Marty Kotis. Kotis said he was objecting because of concerns about the timing and process surrounding Ross’ employment.

“The Board believes President Ross as served with distinction, that his performance has been exemplary, and that he has devoted his full energy, intellect and passion to fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of the office,” according to a joint statement from Ross and the Board of Governors. “The board respects President Ross and greatly appreciates his service to the University and to the State of North Carolina.”

Joint Statement of UNC Board of Governors  and President Tom Ross

Joint Statement of UNC Board of Governors and President Tom Ross

 

Ross, an attorney and former judge who came to the university in 2011 after leading the private Davidson College, led the university system during a period of massive budget cuts, including $441 million in cuts handed to the schools between 2011 and 2013.

In addition to his higher education work, Ross has also served as a judge, the head of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts and head of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem.

His future with the system had been uncertain as the increasingly conservative members of the board expressed frustrations with the UNC system and Ross’ leadership.

Both WRAL and the News & Observer are also reporting Ross’ departure, citing anonymous sources. He is expected to stay on through January 2016. He is 64 and, though most UNC presidents have left the position at 65, Ross was not interested in leaving, according to the News & Observer’s Jane Stancill.

Terms of the President's Employment Contract as approved by the Board of Governors

Terms of the President’s Employment Contract as approved by the Board of Governors

Ross is expected to speak during Friday’s meeting, where Gov. Pat McCrory is also on hand to address the Board of Governors.

When asked about Ross’ future with the UNC system before the start of Friday’s meeting, Chairman John Fennebresque brushed aside questions from N.C. Policy Watch.

“I don’t want to talk to reporters,” he said.

UPDATE, 10 a.m.: No official statements have been made about Ross’ employment. The UNC Board of Governors, after hearing from Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this morning, went into closed session at 9:45 a.m.

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who has announced his intentions to run for governor in 2016, released this statement about Ross’ expected departure. His spokeswoman said Cooper has spoken with Ross about the situation.

I’m deeply concerned that the forcing out of President Ross is another blow to higher education in North Carolina at a time when we need universities to lead in innovation and critical thinking,” Cooper said, according to a written statement. “He has led the University system through difficult times, striving to give students the skills they need for tomorrow’s jobs.”

What do you think about this development? Leave your comments below.

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

News

The UNC Board of Governors heard from several top lawmakers Thursday as part of an attempt by the system’s governing board to improve relations with the elected officials that fund them.

So, what advice did they get?

Bring more conservative voices to campuses, keep cutting administrative costs and, when you are asking for more funding, make your case quickly and clearly.

Republican state Reps. John Bell, Tim Moore of Kings Mountain, and Nelson Dollar of Wake County spoke Thursday afternoon with members of the UNC Board of Governor’s public affairs committee.

Dollar, the top budget writer in the House, said in his opening remarks that he and many of his Republican colleagues want to see conservative voices welcomed on the 17 campuses that are part of the UNC system.

“We want to make sure that diversity on campuses means among other things … that more conservative voices have a hearing as well and (are as) welcome at the campuses,” Dollar said.

The conversation Thursday comes as the UNC is preparing its budget requests for the next two years, which the state legislature will take up in its long session beginning in January. Though it avoided significant cuts for this year, public colleges and universities in the state have weathered deep cuts in prior years that trimmed nearly a half-billion dollars in 2011.

Bell, who is finishing his first term, said he hears from constituents and others who think the university system is still too top-heavy.

“Let’s start streamlining some of this bloated administration,” he said, adding that he think there are too many academic centers at various university campuses.

Read More

Uncategorized

1-7-13-NCPW-CARTOONThis morning’s Winston-Salem Journal lays it out pretty clearly in an editorial on the matter of funding for the University of North Carolina. The paper says it is time for Gov. McCrory to stand up to his budget director and conservative political moneybags, Art Pope (who has launched a new and public effort to forestall needed growth in university spending).

This is from the editorial:

“Pope, who has his own conservative political constituency, has long been a UNC critic. The UNC operations request alone is for 4.6 percent. And while Pope had instructed state agencies to keep increase requests to 2 percent or less, the university’s response must be considered in historical context.

Over the last five years, the UNC operational budget has been cut by hundreds of millions of dollars. UNC officials have found efficiencies to cover some of those lost funds, but they’ve also weakened the education they deliver.

Additionally, students have been hit with big tuition and fee increases while state funding has dropped. All of this in a state where the constitution guarantees a university education that is as close to free as is ‘practicable’…. Read More