Higher education group blasts new scheme for selecting UNC System chancellors

UNC System President Peter Hans.

As Policy Watch reported two weeks ago, the UNC Board of Governors is considering a controversial change from new system president Peter Hans to the way the chancellor selection process will work at the system’s various campuses.

This is from reporter Joe Killian’s story:

“Hans’ proposed change would allow the UNC System president to add up to two candidates to search process. Those candidates would go through the same interviews as other candidates, but would automatically move forward as part of a slate of finalists for the position. In effect, the president would have the power to both insert candidates into the search process without approval from the board of trustees, those candidates would become finalists for the positions whether or not the board of trustees approves and the president would then choose a final candidate from those finalists.”

As Killian also reported in July, the proposal received a negative response in some quarters – including from some members of the Board of Trustees at East Carolina University, who expressed a concern that such a switch could pave the way for a politically-connected candidate without other obvious qualifications (like North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore) to secure the chancellorship at the Greenville campus.

Yesterday, one of the state’s leading higher education nonprofits, Higher Ed Works, also weighed in with an editorial criticizing the proposal.

Here’s the conclusion to an unsigned essay entitled “Why bother with a search if outcome is decided?” that the group posted yesterday:

“The move would disenfranchise campus Boards of Trustees – again, why go to the trouble to conduct a national search if two finalists have already been chosen? – and strip trustees of ownership in who leads the campus. Trustees have already bristled at the proposal, saying it could politicize chancellor searches.

Further, it would stifle applications from external candidates if they think the search is biased toward internal candidates.

North Carolina’s public universities have been blessed with good leadership and can only benefit from the broadest possible pool of applicants.

Some – like recently retired UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phil Dubois and his predecessor Jim Woodward – came from outside the UNC System to lead its most rapidly growing campus. So did current NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson.

As [UNC Board chair Randall] Ramsey recently noted, the Board of Governors can already return a campus’s recommendations to trustees if it doesn’t like its choices – and has done so.

The President has the same prerogative. There’s no need to make his or her recommendations a self-fulfilling prophecy – the recommendation alone should send a strong signal.

Republicans once billed themselves as the party of local control – “investing authority in the level of government closest to the people.”

That would include trustees at the 17 campuses of the UNC System. So let’s have faith in those local leaders – who are primarily appointed by the Board of Governors – and not dictate their choices to them.

Developing a pool of prospects makes good sense. But mandating the choice of finalists is overkill.”

Click here to read the entire essay.

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