Archives

News

The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors are moving forward in their search to replace UNC President Tom Ross, and have come up with tentative list of who will coordinate the search for a new president.

UNCsystemThe proposed search committee list was discussed during a four-hour public meeting Thursday in the Charlotte law office where Chairman John Fennebresque works.

The full UNC Board of Governors will vote on the slate of committee members at its meeting this coming Friday, behind held on East Carolina University campus.

The proposed co-chairs of the search committee are Ann Goodnight, the Cary philanthropist and wife of SAS founder Jim Goodnight, and Joan MacNeill, the co-founder of the Great Smoky Mountains Railway tourist attraction from Webster. Therence Pickett, the general counsel for MackTrucks/Volvo Trucks in Greensboro, is slated to become a vice-chair of the search committee that will present final candidates to the full UNC Board of Governors.

The university’s system’s 32-member governing board, all of whom got their appointments from Republican legislative leaders, pushed out UNC President Tom Ross out at their January meeting. Ross, who has headed the state’s public university system since 2011, will stay in his position until 2016.

Fennebresque has denied that pressure from legislative leaders or politics played a role in dismissing Ross, who had been hired by a board that leaned Democratic. Ross, a former judge and Davidson College president, was hired by a board of governors then controlled by Democrats.

Frank Grainger, a member of the UNC Board of Governors from Cary, commented during Thursday’s meeting that approval from the Republican-controlled legislature on the next UNC president is key.

“If they’re not happy with whoever we hire, then we’ve got a problem,” Grainger said.

Read More

News
John Fennebresque, UNC BOG chair

John Fennebresque, UNC BOG chair

A subcommittee of the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors meets in Charlotte tomorrow to talk about the search for a new president of the 17-campus higher education system.

The board’s presidential search nominating committee is holding a public meeting at the McGuire Woods law firm in Charlotte, where UNC Board Chairman John Fennebresque is a vice-chairman at the law and lobbying firm.

Though the meeting is at a private law firm, it is public and open to anyone who wishes to attend. The meeting is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the McGuire Woods law firm, 201 N. Tryon Street in Charlotte.

The only items on the agenda are a review of past presidential searches and discussion by the committee.

UNC President Tom Ross

UNC President Tom Ross

The 32 members of the UNC Board of Governors, all of whom have received appointments from a Republican-led legislature, are looking for a new president after President Tom Ross was unexpectedly pushed out in January. Fennebresque, the board chair, cited a general desire for change while praising Ross for his leadership and denying that politics played a role in Ross’ ouster.

The state’s open meeting laws allow public bodies (like the UNC Board of Governors) to hold their meetings in areas usually off-limits to the public as long as the general public is allowed to attend, said Brandon Huffman, a Raleigh-based attorney with the Stephens, Martin, Vaughn and Tadych law firm, which specializes in First Amendment issues.

“They can have it there,” Huffman said. “They do have to allow the public the same access as they would at any other venue.”

Read More

News

Senator Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) filed a bill last week that would require all UNC professors to teach no fewer than four courses a semester. It’s a move that, McInnis says, is an effort to make sure classes are not taught primarily by student assistants — but some are concerned it could hamper research and development at the state’s prestigious institutions of higher education.

“There is no substitute for a professor in the classroom to bring out the best in our students,” McInnis said in a statement, according to the Richmond County Daily Journal. “I look forward to the debate that will be generated by this important legislation.”

University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill Professor Stephen Leonard, who teaches political science and is chair of the UNC system-wide Faculty Assembly, said the legislation is nothing more than an attempt to kill public higher education in North Carolina.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” said Leonard. “Talented faculty would start looking for work out of state, it would be hard to attract junior faculty coming out of graduate school, and it would be impossible to attract senior faculty who bring a lot of resources to our institutions.”

Leonard says the most problematic consequence of the proposed law would be that the discovery and production of knowledge would grind to a halt.

“Which I suppose is okay if you don’t want to cure cancer, fix infrastructure or make new discoveries about manufacturing processes,” said Leonard.

SB 593 would tie professors’ salaries to their course loads—those teaching fewer than four courses each semester would earn less than their full salaries, determined on a pro-rata basis.

The legislation also allows for the salary difference to be made up by an individual campus’ endowment, should they determine a professor should take on a lighter course load in order to conduct research – but Leonard says that’s an untenable scenario for most campuses.

“Good luck with that,” said Leonard. “Almost all of the campuses that are not Research 1 institutions would have a hard time coming up with the funds to do that.”

According to the Richmond County Daily Journal, the bill would result in professors at big research universities like UNC – Chapel Hill finding their course loads nearly double.

The bill comes at a time when the state’s university system is undergoing considerable turmoil thanks to recent controversial decisions to raise tuition, close three academic centers and fire UNC’s widely-praised president, Tom Ross. The system has also been handed substantial budget cuts over the past five years by the state legislature, including a $400 million cut in 2011.

Sen. McInnis did not respond to requests for comment. Read the bill in its entirety below.

News
UNC Board of Governors Chair John Fennebresque at the Feb. 2015 meeting. (Photo taken by Sarah Ovaska)

UNC Board of Governors Chair John Fennebresque. (Photo taken by Sarah Ovaska)

The N.C. Senate made their choices Wednesday for appointments to the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors. The House will vote on their slate of candidates tomorrow.

Several of the 30 candidates vying for the 16 open slots on the UNC Board of Governors have also been significant contributors to political campaigns, with more than $1 million in contributions coming from the nominees and their immediate family members.

The new members will join the board at the start of the next fiscal year, on July 1.

John Fennebresque, the chair of the UNC Board of Governors who was reappointed on Wednesday, has personally written more than $250,000 in checks to state political campaigns since 2007. (Click here to read my report from earlier today about the connection between the UNC Board of Governors and political campaigns.) Read More

News
UNC Board of Governors Chair John Fennebresque at the Feb. 2015 meeting. (Photo taken by Sarah Ovaska)

UNC Board of Governors Chair John Fennebresque (Photo taken by Sarah Ovaska)

John Fennebresque, a Charlotte attorney who serves as chair of the UNC Board of Governors, responded this week to criticisms of recent decisions  to raise tuition, close three academic centers and get rid of its much-respected system president, Tom Ross.

In an editorial published Thursday by the Charlotte Observer, Fennebresque said the board was happy with Ross’ performance but wanted to bring a fresh perspective to the 17-campus system.

From Fennebresque’s editorial:

We recognize some of our recent efforts to move the University forward have generated criticism and concern for some. Our decision to raise tuition is as unpopular with the board as it is for the people of North Carolina, and it further illustrates the need to look closely at everything the University is doing.

As I have said previously, President Tom Ross has led the University with distinction throughout his tenure. Our decision to proceed with a leadership change had nothing to do with his performance, but simply reflects our belief that all great institutions can benefit from a change in leadership from time to time.

We will conduct a national search for the next UNC system president with great care. We intend to carry on the long tradition of selecting a president of the highest caliber to lead and build on UNC’s foundation of excellence.
Read more here.

 

The board is moving ahead with its presidential search, and this week chose nine members to serve on a nominating committee to select the members who ultimately will screen applicants.

Fennebresque said he hopes to have hired someone by this fall. Ross’ contract keeps him at the helm of the university system until 2016 Read More