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Friday May 27th

BOG meeting: Controversial member resigns; members halt raises to tuition and fees

UNC system Interim President Dr. Bill Roper makes his report at the start of a meeting of the Board of Governors at the Friday Center on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019.
Buy Photos UNC system Interim President Dr. Bill Roper reports at start a previous meeting of the Board of Governors held on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. At the most recent meeting conducted via Zoom, he addressed his optimism about students returning to campus in the fall.

UNC Board of Governors member Tom Fetzer announced he is resigning effective immediately at the Board's monthly meeting Wednesday.

Members of the BOG also heard remarks from interim UNC System President Bill Roper and voted on several proposals, including halting any raises in tuition and fees for UNC institutions. 

The meeting concluded with the announcement that Fetzer would be resigning from his position, in order to devote his time to homeschooling his five children with his wife. 

"Like many families, my wife and I have been homeschooling our five children for the last few months," Fetzer said at the end of the meeting. "… Necessity is the mother of invention, and we've figured it out. Teaching our kids at home has been such a blessing to all of us, we've decided to continue it."

Fetzer said that he waited to announce his resignation until the N.C. Senate was back in session, so that they may expeditiously choose his replacement. He said he had previously discussed his resignation in the past few weeks with both BOG chairperson Randy Ramsey and N.C. Sen. President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R- Caswell, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry). 

A former mayor of Raleigh and previous chairperson of the North Carolina Republican Party, Fetzer had been involved in multiple BOG controversies in recent years. 

In 2018, Fetzer was criticized by other BOG members for interfering in the search for Western Carolina University's new chancellor. 

According to NC Policy Watch, fellow governors charged that he revealed a candidate's name and information — which are supposed to remain confidential — to an outside group, a risk management and screening firm based in Greenville called QVerity. 

Ramsey had also previously criticized Fetzer in 2019 for initiating a personal investigation into former East Carolina University interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach, stating he should face consequences for doing so. 

The BOG's governance committee has drafted revisions to its ethics policies in the wake of Fetzer's actions.One such change indicated board members would not be allowed to "undertake reviews, background checks, investigations or any other assessments of University employees or candidates for University employment" unless directed to do so. 

The BOG also voted on several resolutions during the meeting, first approving the proposal to have no tuition or fee increases for this upcoming school year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Board member Marty Kotis initially put forth an amendment to allow tuition increases for out-of-state students, which was eventually withdrawn after Roper said he would prefer to keep the lack of increases uniform.

"Our constitutional duty is to educate the people of the state as free as practicable, so to the extent we can achieve dollars from outside the state that can support in-state, I would not personally want to limit that," Kotis said. 

Roper said he agreed with Kotis' points, but preferred to keep things constant for "continuity's sake and simplicity of administration." 

The board also voted without discussion to approve the $44.4 million from the 2020 COVID-19 Relief Fund to be allocated to UNC System schools. 

UNC-Chapel Hill is set to receive the full amount possible, $4.5 million, which is the maximum that the UNC System allowed for direct funding to schools. 

In his remarks, Roper said the UNC System has been going through detailed contingency planning efforts in preparation to welcome students back in the fall. 

"These days, the question that I get most frequently is, 'What will be the UNC system's mode of operation in the fall?'" Roper said. "And let me just say — and say again, and say loudly and passionately — we are optimistic, leaning in and expecting our students, faculty and staff to return to classrooms, labs and libraries this fall."

Roper specified that the planning is focused on having appropriate safeguards in place. Roper and the UNC System leadership team have been meeting individually with the System's 17 institutions. 

He said the UNC System has developed a draft of guidance in five critical areas: academic and student affairs; health and safety; HR issues and policy for the workplace, faculty and staff; finance and budget; and communications. The goal is to have to drafts of guidance completed by the end of May. 


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