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The Daily Tar Heel

BOG Loses Power to Trustees

One provision repeals part of a BOG tuition-setting policy adopted three years ago, giving individual campuses more power to gain approval for campus-initiated tuition increases.

A second provision gives individual campuses the authority to hire all top-ranking administrators except the chancellor without the previously required BOG approval.

The third measure gives the individual boards of trustees exclusive power to plan and implement all information technology on their campuses -- a power that previously was shared between the BOG and campus trustee boards.

Although some legislators have said the provisions have decreased the BOG's power over individual campuses, some board members were supportive of the changes.

"What is in the statute at this point, we are very supportive of." said BOG member Priscilla Taylor. "It still gives the Board of Governors the final authority to approve tuition increases and personnel. But it does give more flexibility to the individual campuses to make certain decisions."

But both University officials and state legislators insist that the policy changes will not significantly alter the way UNC-system officials treat tuition increases or personnel matters.

The tuition policy the BOG followed prior to the passage of the budget was adopted in November 1998 and allowed the board to grant two types of tuition increases.

The first was an annual systemwide tuition increase to offset rising costs. A second part of the policy allowed the BOG to grant tuition increase requests from individual campuses if the campus showed "extraordinary" circumstances. Since the BOG adopted the tuition-setting policy, the board has not denied any of the 11 campus-initiated tuition requests brought before it.

The provision the legislature passed two weeks ago as part of the state budget eliminates the need for campuses to demonstrate that an extraordinary situation exists.

"The board of trustees of the institution may recommend to the Board of Governors tuition and fees for program-specific and institution-specific needs at that institution without regard to whether an emergency situation exists," the provision states.

Sen. Howard Lee, D-Orange, co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said while more of the burden for approving tuition increases will be placed on the campus level, he does not think there will be a rash of campus-proposed tuition increases.

"Now that (the boards of trustees) are the ones making the decision and not someone else, they might think even more carefully about what kind of tuition increase they propose," Lee said.

He also said the campus boards of trustees are generally more aware of their campuses' needs and are able to make better decisions about tuition increases than system-level administrators. "We think a campus board would be more sensitive to what is needed for campus and its students," Lee said.

But BOG members insisted that in spite of the policy change, their power to reject campus-initiated tuition requests will not be diminished. "Knowing what I know about the members of this board, if they though it (a tuition increase) would not be prudent, they would have no problem turning it down," said BOG member Dudley Flood. "The burden of proof is still on the institutions to show that these tuition increases are necessary."

UNC-system President Molly Broad said the provision actually serves to clarify the board's existing policy.

"Essentially all it does is codify the Board of Governors policy for campus-initiated tuition increases," Broad said. "It eliminated the clause about emergency need, which was vague and often debated by the board."

Another stipulation the budgetary provisions eliminate is the requirement that the BOG put its seal of approval on all administrative appointments.

Under the new policy the boards of trustees will have the power to appoint and fix compensation for all vice chancellors and senior academic and administrative officers. The BOG will retain the power to hire, set salary and fire the chancellors at all 16 UNC-system campuses.

Most officials hail the move as a way to make the UNC system more efficient, not remove authority from the BOG.

UNC-Chapel Hill Trustee Richard Stevens said the new policy will allow the University to hire personnel in a more timely manner.

"There is a sequence that one has to go through to approve certain personnel that takes several months," Stevens said.

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All three provisions sprang from negotiations among Senate Democrats and University officials at both the system and campus level.

Other provisions -- which called for certain institutions to gain expanded flexibility regarding personnel, capital and purchasing responsibilities -- were excluded from the budget but will be studied by the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee between now and 2003.

Several senators who were involved in the provisions' design said they were part of an effort to give administrators on individual campuses more power to run their institutions.

"There has been some concern among the legislature that individual campuses do not have the flexibility to operate their campus as they should," said Sen. Walter Dalton, D-Cleveland, chairman of the Senate Education Committee. "The people at the campus level are qualified people, and they should be allowed to use their skills to run their university."

Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said officials at the campus level are often more in touch with the needs of their campus than UNC-system officials.

"I think the boards of trustees and the administration at the individual campuses are in a much better position to run the day to day operations of their campus then the Board of Governors," Rand said.

But Broad said that despite the changes to the policy, the powers system administrators have remain intact.

When asked if she thinks the measures diminished in any way the BOG's ability to hold individual campuses accountable, Broad simply responded "No."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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