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The Daily Tar Heel

The right price for Ross: Efficiency is important, but getting the best candidate is worth the money

In light of continuing economic difficulties, the UNC-system Board of Governors has zeroed in on efficiency as the name of the game for the coming year.

We agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. And budget cuts need not be a death sentence if, instead of slashing jobs and programs, those in charge focus on streamlining and innovating. Improving quality, not decreasing quantity, should be the focus.

This notion of cutting the budget the right way ­— not the quickest, easiest or most popular way — is particularly relevant in light of Tuesday’s announcement that the search committee has chosen Thomas Ross as the new UNC-system president.

Per the advice of an independent consulting firm, the search committees decided on a salary increase for the new president. We laud them for being able to discern the need for such an increase despite the cost-cutting frenzy that has gripped the education world since the onset of the recession.

It would have been a terrible irony if the system’s ability to not only survive but also thrive in these economic times was inhibited by a desire to save money.

We also trust that the search committees will be flexible and circumspect enough in their salary negotiations with Ross to ensure his retention and give us the right person, not just the right price.

Some reject the notion of a salary increase out of hand due to an all-consuming desire to trim the budget, period. However, in this case, saving money in the short term would likely lead to losing money in the long term.

An elite candidate pool demands competitive salaries. Undoubtedly, the system would lose more money under poor leadership than it would have saved by scrimping here.

And those who object to what they see as exorbitant compensation must remember the pool from which such administrators are often drawn.

Comparable positions in the private sector and even at private universities tend to offer significantly higher salaries; to some extent, those who take the job of UNC-system president are doing a public service.

On that note, we are impressed with Ross’ record and are pleased with the committee’s decision. We look forward to his tenure and eagerly await the leadership and innovation we expect from him.

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