The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday October 20th

UNC-system president search aims to keep costs down

Outgoing UNC-system President Erskine Bowles manages 16 more schools than UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp — and only makes about $60,000 more a year.

But members of one of the committees helping to find Bowles’ replacement said the next system president needs to make substantially more than any of the system chancellors.

At a meeting Thursday, the committee discussed factors it will consider when setting the compensation and benefits package for the next system president, — particularly how it compares to the packages for presidents at peer institutions.

Before the search for candidates can really begin, the search committees must decide what they plan to pay the UNC system’s future leader.

In 2008-09, Bowles made $494,023 and Thorp made $433,882 in total compensation, which includes benefits. Both were also provided with homes.

According to data the committee discussed, many public universities and university systems pay their presidents substantially more than the UNC system pays Bowles.

Despite the compensation discrepancies with other states, committee members were more focused on how the president’s salary compared to the salaries of system chancellors.

 “I can’t conceive us considering compensation that would be less than a chancellor makes,” said Board of Governors member Frank Daniels, Jr.

Hannah Gage, board chairwoman and a member of the search committee, said university presidents typically make 18 percent to 20 percent more than the chancellors of individual universities.

The committee will not set compensation and benefits for the next UNC-system president until after they have selected a search consultant, which they hope to do by late April.

Candidate pool is still wide open

Gage also reminded the search committee that there is not yet a preliminary set of candidates.

That won’t happen until the consultant firm is hired.

Gage urged search members to keep an open mind about who could be a potential candidate.

There is already widespread speculation about who might take Bowles’ place.

“There is not a presumed candidate,” Gage said. “We are casting a wide, wide net, and it is my hope that we will have a vibrant pool.”

Can costs be kept down?

Gage said she hopes to keep the cost of the search at or less than $100,000, much of which will go toward hiring a consulting firm.

But the high prices of recent searches at UNC-CH make her think it might be more costly, she said. The search that netted Thorp cost $213,581.

If the search costs more, the board will have to find the money because the search is a top priority, she said.

Emphasizing transparency

Although candidates will be kept secret, keeping the search process within N.C. open meetings laws is a major priority, board members said Thursday.

They hope to make the search process as inclusive as possible, said Laura Luger, general counsel for the UNC system.

Most meetings will be open to the public. Committees must announce their meetings 48 hours in advance. Still, nearly all substantial discussion will be held behind closed doors.

If committee members discuss search matters with a majority of members outside an official meeting, their conversations are still legally public record, she said.

“If a majority of the committee is on the 12th hole and talks business … that’s out of order,” Luger said.

Members are also not permitted to discuss closed meeting business with anyone outside the session, including members on the other two committees that are involved in the search process.

Every member must sign a confidentiality agreement with repercussions for members who disclose confidential information.

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