And administrators will carry out most of the preparation of the campaign before fall 2013, when tuition discussions will likely flare up again.
“Between now and then we need to have a very crisp story of how we’re going to sustain the public research university,” Thorp said.
To remedy the steady, decades-long decline of state support, the University will embark on an ambitious fundraising campaign that is expected to exceed the $2.38 billion raised between 1999 and 2007.
But first it needs to find a message, a task that will define the coming months.
“A lot of it is: What’s the messaging? What’s the theme? Why are we asking people for money?” said Alston Gardner, chairman of the board’s academic affairs committee.
This charge will require board members to be more active on campus, they said.
“I think it’s incumbent on us to get out of this theatrical, structured performance at the Carolina Inn every month,” Gardner told the trustees, suggesting that board members visit schools and departments with which they are unfamiliar.
The new role for the board will serve two purposes that complement each other, Gardner said — accomplishing Thorp’s vision, and preparing for the fundraising effort.
Thorp outlined four areas of emphasis: methods of teaching, access and completion, balancing cost and access, and research. He argued there is room for innovation in each.
For example, Thorp emphasized motivating professors to incorporate new modes of teaching, a task that starts from the ground up.
“It has to be driven by the dean, the senior associate dean or the department chair,” Gardner said. “That’s where the rubber meets the road.”
Ultimately, trustees have backed a broader look at campus strategy, taking advantage of the time they can spend out of the headlines.
“We really need to do our homework,” Gardner said.
But Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney said despite distractions, administrators always had their eyes on the academic mission, citing the latest iteration of the Academic Plan.
“Universities are wonderfully complex, living organisms,” he said.
Contact the University Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.