In recent months, the role of the UNC-system Board of Governors and UNC Board of Trustees has been highlighted surrounding the Silent Sam controversy and Chancellor Carol Folt’s resignation. The two governing bodies complement each other to develop the University and the UNC system.
Established in 1971, the BOG oversees the requirements of the state constitution, called The Code, and the UNC Policy Manual, which provides directions on University affairs.
The BOG presides over the 17 campuses of the UNC system and governs all UNC-system schools, while the BOT is specific to UNC-Chapel Hill.
The BOG currently has 28 voting members, all of whom are elected by the North Carolina General Assembly for four-year terms.
The BOT has 13 members, four of whom are appointed by the General Assembly. Another eight are elected by the BOG, and the UNC Student Body President, currently Savannah Putnam, serves as an ex-officio member. Putnam was elected as a University representative and holds membership within the BOT because of her role within student government.
Role in Silent Sam and Folt's resignation
Because the BOT is specific to the University, it advises the BOG regarding campus affairs. The BOT provides advisement and instruction to the University’s leadership and the Chancellor’s Office.
This power structure is evident in recent events at the University.
In August, the BOG directed the BOT and Folt to make a decision in the aftermath of Silent Sam's forcible removal by protesters. In this nearly three-month process, and after hosting discussions and forums with the Carolina community, the BOT and Folt presented a recommendation to the BOG on Dec. 3.
The proposal, which recommended housing the statue in a new, freestanding building on campus, resulted in sentiments of disappointment from students and the community. The BOG rejected the proposal, citing public safety and state financial concerns.
"As we work with the Board of Governors, our work will involve more fully exploring off-campus options as put forward in the initial report," Folt said. "This was the stated and strong preference that the Board of Trustees and I made in our proposal for the plan because we learned from our analyses that relocating off campus, for example to the North Carolina Museum of History, was the best way to ensure the safety and security of our people and campus and was more feasible and cost-effective."
On Dec. 14, the BOG gave another deadline of March 15 for a subsequent proposal to be presented.
On Monday, Folt announced she would resign at the end of the academic year. Also in her resignation statement, Folt announced the removal of the base and commemorative plaques of Silent Sam.
The BOG was not aware of this decision.
“We are incredibly disappointed at this intentional action,” said BOG chairperson Harry Smith in a statement on Jan. 14. “It lacks transparency, and it undermines and insults the Board’s goal to operate with class and dignity. We strive to ensure that the appropriate stakeholders are always involved and that we are always working in a healthy and professional manner.”
The BOG exercised its authority to make decisions regarding leadership of UNC-system institutions by pushing Folt’s official resignation to Jan. 31.
Though Folt will no longer serve as chancellor, the BOG ensured the Carolina community of their vision regarding informed decisions on Silent Sam.
“We will do so with proper governance and oversight in a way that respects all constituencies and diverse views on this issue,” Smith said. “The safety and security of the campus community and general public who visit the institution remains paramount.”
Traditionally, a search committee is formed and the BOT presents candidates for the next chancellor to the BOG, who will vote and ultimately make a decision on Folt’s successor. The exact timeline has not yet been specified.
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