There was a telling disparity between how the UNC-system General Administration and its governing board responded to Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget cut to the university system.
“I am very concerned by the magnitude of the new cuts proposed for our campuses, particularly in light of the more than $400 million in permanent budget reductions we absorbed two years ago,” Ross said.
President Ross and the board have managed (so far) to avoid airing any serious differences of opinion publicly. But the tension is there, and the mantra that the board is an apolitical and nonpartisan body is getting old.
In August 2011 the conservative Pope Center for Higher Education Policy went as far as proposing the board should bypass Ross entirely and hire its own executive director to “assert its independence from the system’s General Administration.”
Ross fits the state’s history of Democratic business-progressives who understand investment in the UNC system as a critical component of North Carolina’s economic future.
Since 2011, the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly has appointed all of the 32 current board members. Most of them are prominent conservative business leaders inclined to share the new legislature’s ideological skepticism about public higher education.
N.C. Senate Appropriations Committee co-chairman Peter Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, recently declared that GOP legislators could envision closing down UNC-system campuses — even though there’s no evidence that shuttering campuses is viable or even fiscally prudent.