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Friday December 3rd

Thomas Ross working toward smooth transition

UNC-system persident elect Thomas Ross takes over Jan. 1.
Buy Photos UNC-system persident elect Thomas Ross takes over Jan. 1.

In less than a month, UNC-system President-elect Thomas Ross will end his four month transition period and take office.

On Jan. 1, Ross, who currently serves as president of Davidson College, will inherit a University system facing unprecedented budget cuts and proposals for steep tuition increases.

Already, he has more on his plate than past presidents, and unlike many of those leaders, his transition period has been spent juggling two roles instead of just focusing on getting to know the UNC system.

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“Obviously if you’re the key leader of a university, it is expected and customary for you to provide adequate time for a replacement,” Worthington said.

Past president-elects, including President Erskine Bowles, have used this time period to visit the different UNC-system campuses, meet administrators and understand the problems and pending policies.

But Ross’ commitment to Davidson has kept him from being actively involved.

“He has been very much dedicated to wrapping up his work at Davidson,” Worthington said. “Personal involvement in meetings has been limited.”

However, he has had phone conversations with Bowles, chancellors and staff to stay updated.

“They’ve been working to make sure it’s a smooth transition and that the work of the University doesn’t miss a beat in the process,” she said.

Before former UNC-system President Molly Broad took office in 1997, she was in a similar position as Ross.

She was still working for the California State University system and flew to North Carolina several times to visit campuses, but did not have enough time to be actively involved, Worthington said.

The role president-elects play during the transition period does not necessarily give them an advantage, said former UNC-system President Bill Friday, who had been serving as an assistant to the president before he took office.

“I just moved from one desk to another,” Friday said. “But once you sit down in the chair, it’s quite different. You’re at the end of the line when it comes to decision-making.”

UNC-system Board of Governors members said they were not worried about Ross’ lack of direct involvement.

“Our new president has visited all regions of the state with previous jobs he has held,” said Steve Bowden, a member of the board. “I have no reservations about him hitting the ground running.”

James Holshouser, who has served on the board since 1981, said transitions are always challenging times, but Ross has made a considerable effort to get to know the system.

“(Ross’) probably coming in facing the toughest challenge of any president since the 1930s,” he said.

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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