When Harry Smith’s resignation takes effect in October, multiple positions critical to the functioning of UNC and N.C. higher education will be staffed by leaders whose predecessors dealt with the aftermath of Silent Sam’s toppling last fall.
Smith is the chairperson of the Board of Governors, which oversees all 16 public universities in the UNC System.
T. Greg Doucette had a voting position on the Board in 2008 as its student representative. He said when the modern Board was created in the 1970s, it was designed to craft agendas and think big picture, while leaving day-to-day control to the individual universities.
“And that changed pretty dramatically when the GOP took over,” he said.
Since 2008, the number of members on the Board has been reduced by the N.C. Legislature, and partisanship on the Board has swung heavily to Republicans.
“You’ve got this always-been-political body that is now more openly political than it has been in the past,” Doucette said. “At the same time, you’ve got a General Assembly that has been very active in trying to micromanage the universities.”
Smith has been labeled one of the board’s staunchest partisans in the past, but his views on Silent Sam have taken a 180 degree turn this past year.
At a Board meeting in May, Smith said his initial calls to resurrect the statue were probably “quick and uneducated.”
“Having taken the time, energy and effort and talking to a lot of people, I have tremendous faith and trust in — it’s my view and opinion as one member that that’s not the right path,” he said regarding the state's return to McCorkle Place.