Two dozen UNC centers under review

The working group of seven board members tasked with reviewing the centers met Friday in Chapel Hill. The group plans to complete a final report by Dec. 31.

The first review phase whittled the system’s 240 research centers to 91. UNC-CH centers that remain under review include the Ackland Art Museum, the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

Centers and institutes were deemed to require further review if they have a budget of less than $50,000, have an economic return ratio of less than two-to-one or receive more than $100,000 in in-kind support, which is non-monetary support. Some were placed on the list for multiple reasons.

The board’s efforts are in response to a mandate by the N.C. General Assembly, which tasked the board with considering a $15 million cut to research centers and institutes and reallocating the funds to other UNC-system priorities.

On Friday, the group discussed the process for the second phase. UNC-Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois said he thinks the proposed review process might not offer a full view of the centers’ purpose and impact on campuses.

“You’re trying to take a tree and whittle it down to a stick,” he said. “But to me, the questions you ought to be asking are what do they do, how do they do it and who benefits.”

Once the secondary review has been completed, individual centers and institutes that remain in limbo will be asked to give presentations at the board’s December meeting.

Also at Friday’s meeting was a new UNC student group, the UNC BOG Democracy Coalition, which is demanding a student voice on the board with voting power.

“It’s an example of where this board is supposed to represent students, but it obviously doesn’t, because there are no student voting members,” said UNC senior and member Catherine Crowe.

Wednesday’s release of the Wainstein report on UNC-CH’s academic fraud was also fresh on the board’s minds.

UNC-system President Tom Ross said during a press conference after the meeting that there’s no reason to believe that faulty classes are present at other system campuses.

The board will remain involved in determining whether new system-wide policies need to be implemented in response to the report, he said.

He added that the board has already taken action in part as a reaction to the scandal, ramping up the system’s post-tenure review policy to ensure that department chairs undergo regular reviews, which was not previously the case.

“We’re not going to forget about this. We can’t.”

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