Harry Smith’s term as chairperson of the Board of Governors is over. In his roughly year and a half as chairperson, Smith antagonized university leaders throughout the state. He presided over a particularly damaging period of board governance that forced out several UNC System leaders and hurt North Carolina’s ability to attract the most qualified higher education professionals.
We urge the next chairperson of the Board of Governors to learn from Smith’s mistakes and act in the best interest of the UNC system as a whole. This means letting the university chancellors and boards of trustees manage their own campuses unencumbered by the demands of a politicized Board of Governors.
Smith was too interested in individual schools and used his power to satisfy personal grievances. As reported by The News & Observer, board member Steven Long alleged that Smith wanted to get rid of the chancellor at East Carolina University after that chancellor turned down a proposal that would have required students to live in housing that Smith wanted to develop.
After three years at the university, ECU’s chancellor stepped down in March. Long said that Smith was responsible not only for the ECU chancellor’s departure, but also former UNC-system President Margaret Spelling’s as well.
If Smith did force out ECU’s chancellor after a business deal gone awry, Smith’s actions constituted textbook corruption. What a shameful thing for one of the nation’s most esteemed public university systems. Any future chairpersons of the board ought to, at a minimum, lead with the same moral conduct that undergraduates are expected to abide by throughout the State.