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UNC alumni and former leaders call for reform in system governance

BOG Committee Meetings Kellie Hunt Blue, Pearl Burris-Floyd,  R. Doyle Parrish
Vice-Chair Kellie Hunt Blue (left) and Seretary Pearl Burris-Floyd (middle left) observe as Committee Member R. Doyle Parrish (right) responds to aspects of a presented survey which collected data on various aspects of university faculty pay, retention, and participation across the UNC system and Historically Minority-serving institutions on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 at the UNC Center for School Leadership Development.

Many prominent graduates and former leaders of UNC-Chapel Hill are calling for reform to UNC-system governance in an online petition. Over 1,200 people have signed the petition on a website.

The petition states that UNC-system governance “needs serious reform” in its message to leaders. It also calls on the Board of Governors to “refrain from meddling and micromanaging.” 

The petition stemmed from a group of former UNC Board of Trustees members. Barbara Hyde, a former UNC trustee and Morehead-Cain Scholar in the class of 1983, was one of them.

“It was initially a group of more than a dozen former trustees of UNC-Chapel Hill who began thinking about this, but many others joined right away,” Hyde said.

Former UNC trustee Roger Perry is another leader of the effort. Some concerns with the BOG that Perry cited included the departures of both former UNC-system President Margaret Spellings and former Chancellor Carol Folt, as well as the failed chancellor search at Western Carolina University.

“It’s not one instance, it’s a whole body of work that has come out of that Board for the last three years, three and a half years, and we’ve been very worried about that for that period time and finally decided that we needed to speak out and take notice of what we think is a governance structure that is not in the best interest of the whole university system,” Perry said. “And that’s not just Carolina; this is really directed at the whole system. It’s not just a Carolina-centric concern.”

The UNC System Office declined comment, but BOG chairperson Harry Smith told the News & Observer on Tuesday that the website represented a “small vocal minority.”

The petition states that leaders“must return to the standards of good governance that created the foundation for excellence at UNC.” Perry said appointments to the BOG and BOT should be less political and the roles of the BOG should adhere to the UNC-system charter. 

“I think the main thing is to restore the proper role of the Board of Governors, and this is to be an adviser and be a council to the president, let the president run the University as he or she is supposed to do,” Perry said. “And there are certain things the Board of Governors must approve, but them becoming involved in campus issues and having subcommittees of their Board that are assigned specific campus-related issues like Silent Sam is inappropriate.”

In light of past and present events, the website will continue providing the Carolina community a place to express their concern.

“We felt it was important to provide an avenue for all the constituents who care deeply about Carolina and the UNC-system to have a way to register their concerns,” Hyde said. “We started as a group of former trustees, but we know that the concern is much broader than that, that the faculty, distinguished alumni across the system, former student body presidents, Morehead-Cain scholars, many, many others who shared our concern and so we felt that the website would be a way to allow all those voices to be heard.”

Hyde said UNC-system governance change is invaluable to the administration of UNC-Chapel Hill.

“I guess just as a general point, we feel strongly that the University of North Carolina is a priceless, irreplaceable asset, not only in the state of North Carolina, but nationally,” she said. “We invented public higher education, and so we as a system need to continue to be a model of best practices and a model of excellence in every aspect of higher education and that’s what we want our governance system to reflect.”


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