“We’re going to have a real good time this afternoon,” said chairperson Lou Bissette.
The retreat, facilitated by the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, started a little after 1 p.m. and will continue through Friday morning. Organizers hope the event will galvanize the board and create support for UNC-system President-elect Margaret Spellings.
“Over the next two days, the Board of Governors will be meeting here to determine how we can best work together with our new president and her team for the good of the UNC system and its constituencies,” Bissette said.
After Bissette’s remarks, Spellings took to the podium.
“One of the best things about American higher education is that it’s an opportunity to share diverse points of view,” she said.
Spelling said she will travel to each UNC-system campus during her first 100 days of presidency to better understand each school and learn more about the system.
Craig Souza, chairperson of the transitional president committee, then gave a brief history of the board and its importance to the UNC system.
“The members of the transition committee hope we will all leave Greensboro thinking it was time well spent,” Souza said. “But I hope you also leave trusting the system.”
The board addressed several topics based on the results of a survey members took before the retreat. They spent several hours in groups clarifying their roles and responsibilities, priorities and board operations and dynamics.
While some conversations were light-hearted, others caused some tension.
Members agreed the board is focused on managing rather than governing and is failing to include all members. The most heated conversation came when members talked about communication — referencing an article published by the (Raleigh) News & Observer earlier this week.
The article reported plans to drastically lower tuition through legislation drafted with input by some — but not all — of the board members.
“When I got calls from people saying, ‘What are you doing changing the names of blacks schools?’ I said ‘What are you talking about,’” said board member William Webb, one of five black members.
Spellings said she is looking forward to using this time to get to know the board and work closely with them.
Despite recent protests demanding her removal, she said she is excited to jump in and talk about higher education affordability, accessibility and accountability.
“Nobody’s going to care about Margaret Spellings once we start talking about the real stuff,” she said.