The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday May 26th

Search for UNC-system President Tom Ross's successor begins to take shape

President Tom Ross will be stepping down as the University of North Carolina president in January 2016.
Buy Photos President Tom Ross will be stepping down as the University of North Carolina president in January 2016.

The UNC-system Board of Governors will vote this week during a meeting at East Carolina University to confirm members of the three committees that will tap a new leader for the 17-campus system. The board’s nominating committee took recommendations for the groups during a four-hour public meeting in Charlotte on Thursday.

The board forced Ross to resign in January, a decision criticized by faculty, students and others in the higher education world, all of whom accused the board of playing politics. Ross is a Democrat, while the board — which is appointed by the N.C. General Assembly — is mostly Republican.

Ross will remain in office until at least Jan. 3, 2016 or until a new president is named, whichever is later.

The policy governing the presidential search process was revised in February. Though there are three committees, the search committee — which consists solely of Board of Governors members — now presides over the entire process, and its members serve on each of the other committees.

Board members Ann Goodnight and Joan MacNeill, two of the seven women on the 34-member board, were nominated to be co-chairwomen of the search committee during Thursday’s meeting in Charlotte.

The search committee was also expanded from nine to 11 members — despite recent comments from board members that committees should be smaller to promote efficiency.

Chancellors, faculty and students will participate in the search through the leadership statement committee. Its proposed roster includes the search committee plus 30 other members — one of them is UNC Chancellor Carol Folt.

The committee will hold public hearings across the state and use the information to craft a job description for the UNC-system president, which will then be voted on by the Board of Governors. Its work should be completed fairly quickly, said Stephen Leonard, chairman of the UNC-system Faculty Assembly and a UNC political science professor.

Alex Parker, the outgoing Association of Student Governments president, had lobbied for a student seat on the search committee but was denied. Parker and UNC-Charlotte junior Davonte Belle are the two proposed student members of the leadership statement committee. Belle was elected in March as ASG’s senior vice president for the 2015-16 academic year.

“I’m pretty disappointed,” Parker said. “I really felt like it was in everyone’s best interests to have the student member of the board serve on the search committee.”

It was a logical request, Parker said, since at least one student serves on every chancellor selection committee. But he thinks the board’s decision came down to experience.

“I don’t think they really valued the student’s position on the board,” he said. “They kind of see the student as lacking experience, whereas I see the student as having a fresh perspective.”

Leonard, one of the three proposed faculty members on the leadership statement committee along with David Green from N.C. Central University and Spoma Jovanovic from UNC-Greensboro, said there isn’t currently a specific timeline for the hearings to begin.

Though many students won’t be on campus during May and June, when the public hearings are likely to take place, Parker said he’s committed to getting students as involved in the search as possible.

Green, a law professor at NCCU, said he thinks the process — particularly the hearings — will ensure that the diverse needs and views of all 17 campuses are heard throughout the search.

“It’s so early that I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “But as I work through the process I’ll be working with faculty to make sure that the faculty perspective is heard.”

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