Friday’s meeting of the UNC Board of Governors didn’t contain any major bombshells — but there were some noteworthy moments and comments as the board looks to move beyond recent controversies at East Carolina University and the ongoing issue of the Silent Sam Confederate monument.
UNC Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey said he was “very disappointed” that a North Carolina Superior Court judge recently scrapped the UNC System’s settlement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Ramsey said the university is working to get back the monument, which he said will be secured off-campus, and the $2.5 million it paid the Confederate group in the settlement.
UNC System Interim President Bill Roper said emphatically that the monument will not return to campus.
Both Roper and Ramsey said the system will continue to seek a lasting and lawful solution to the issue of the monument but said they don’t want the UNC Board of Governors or the system to concentrate more on it than various more pressing issues — finding a new UNC System President and filling several vacant chancellorships among them.
No word yet on whether the system will seek to get back the $74,999 the UNC Board of Governors paid in a separate deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans as part of an agreement to keep them from protesting on campus with Confederate flags, Ramsey said. The system’s lawyers are dealing with the question, he said.
UNC SYSTEM PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH
The UNC System has received “several dozen” applications for UNC System president, Ramsey said Friday.
The search committee will meet next week to begin reviewing them. No timeline is set for choosing a new president for the system, he said.
Roper is scheduled to leave his interim position in June. If a new president hasn’t been found by then, he said, the board will have to deal with that situation then.
The number and quality of the candidates is a testament to the high regard in which the university system is still held, Ramsey said, despite many well publicized problems at the system level and various campuses over the last few years.
STATE BUDGET STANDOFF
Roper again addressed the state budget stalemate Friday.
While being careful to say he isn’t taking a political side on the issue, Roper highlighted the many problems across the system arising from the budget impasse between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly.
“I say this without seeking to be political and without placing blame on any party or any single state official,” Roper said. “My concern for the UNC system is, pure and simple, non-partisan. But there is too much at stake to quibble over how our budget gets enacted. I’m passionate about seeing that it does get enacted, one way or another.”
Policy Watch previously reported that trustees at UNC Schools were bristling at a UNC Board of Governors resolution that called on state lawmakers to pass the currently proposed budget, which would require a veto override. It also gave a directive to individual boards of trustees at UNC schools across the state to pass concurring resolutions.
The legislature adjourned last month without resolving the months’ long budget stalemate and withSenate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) saying it’s possible no new state budget will be passed this fiscal year or next.
Since July, Republican legislative leaders have tried and failed to wrangle enough votes to overturn the budget veto by Gov. Roy Cooper, who among other objections, would like to see Medicaid expanded in the state.
Though many boards of trustees at UNC Systems complies, others — including UNC-Greensboro and N.C. A&T — said they were uncomfortable passing a resolution that specifically asked for a solution favored by Republicans in the legislature but opposed by Democrats.
Roper emphasized the problems caused by what he called “the ongoing state budget morass” and said a solution is needed, however it happens.
“The consequences of not having a budget in place are reaching every corner of our state,” Roper said. “Ultimately the impact will be felt most profoundly by the students and the communities we serve.”
Roper listed a number of high profile problems. Among them:
* Without the half-million dollars in capital funds it was anticipating, Western Carolina University has been unable to replace the outdated and failing steam plant that provides heat and hot water on campus. “The plant is one hash winter or one mechanical failure from a complete campus shut-down,” Roper said.
* The opening of the North Carolina School of Science and Math’s campus in Morganton has been postponed until next year.
*N.C A&T has been unable to renovate Carver Hall, Roper said, leaving Agriculture students working in non ADA-compliant classrooms without proper air conditioning.
* At UNC-Pembroke new health science and STEM buildings can’t move forward.
Roper said next month he and his colleagues will undertake a road trip across the state to highlight the various problems at universities that would be solved or alleviated by passing a state budget.