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Breaking down UNC Board of Trustees and Board of Governors decisions this year

UNC Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz attends the Board of Trustees meeting at the Carolina Inn on Thursday May 20, 2021.

As UNC attempted to return to near-normal operations following the onset of the pandemic, University leaders and UNC System officials have made many significant decisions impacting the campus community.

Here’s a review of the University and system-wide events and decisions that shaped this year.

Settlements and deficits

On Feb. 1, DTH Media Corp. settled its lawsuit against the UNC System over allegations of violating Open Meetings Law in the Silent Sam settlement. The lawsuit was originally filed in January 2020.

Days after the deposition, the UNC System replaced Earl Whipple, former BOG vice president for communications and author of the BOG’s Silent Sam op-ed, with former News & Observer reporter Jane Stancill.

In a Feb. 18 meeting, the BOG announced in-state tuition would remain at the current rate as a part of the system’s tuition-freeze commitment to make college affordable. 

“North Carolina is one of vanishingly few states where average tuition has actually declined over the last five years,” UNC System President Peter Hans said at the meeting. “That not only represents a genuine improvement in opportunity and quality of life for our students, but sends a resounding message to the next generation that the people's University remains within their reach.”

Additionally, the BOG passed a proposal to add suicide prevention and intervention counseling resources to the campus security fee list. 

“Suicide is a clear and present danger that has not only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jim Holmes, then Chairperson of the Committee on Budget and Finance, said. “This is a good recommendation to expand campuses' ability to utilize these funds as they deem appropriate.”

New budgets, initiatives and leadership 

March began with former Student Body President Reeves Moseley ending his term on the BOT ahead of current SBP Lamar Richards’ swearing-in. Additionally, the N.C. General Assembly appointed five new members to the BOG

In an April 22 BOG meeting, Hans announced plans for the fall semester, which included a return to normal operations in the fall and the use of relief funds to maintain affordability. The BOG also voted to increase in the cap on out-of-state students at historically Black colleges and universities from 18 to 25 percent.

BOT initially fails to grant tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones

On May 20, Richards was sworn in as a member of the BOT, ex officio. 

“My job here is not to just be another trustee, but to bring forth the perspectives, ideas and thoughts of 30,000 individual people, because that's what we all are," Richards said in his opening address. "Our communities are not monolithic, and neither are our identities.” 

Protesters gathered at the meeting to show support for Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones after the BOT initially failed to vote on her tenure. After a months-long debacle, the BOT held a special meeting and approved the tenure for Hannah-Jones in a 9-4 vote on June 30.

“Today’s outcome and the actions of the past month are about more than just me," Hannah-Jones said in a statement following the approval. "This fight is about ensuring the journalistic and academic freedom of Black writers, researchers, teachers, and students. We must ensure that our work is protected and able to proceed free from the risk of repercussions, and we are not there yet."

Ultimately, Hannah-Jones declined the offer and accepted a tenured position at Howard University

Faculty discusses Chancellor's leadership status, shared governance concerns

Called by Faculty Chairperson Mimi Chapman, the Faculty Executive Committee held an emergency meeting July 14 to discuss concerns that the BOT and BOG were planning to remove Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.

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“I would not ask you to do this unless I believed that the situation was dire and in need of immediate consideration,” Chapman said at the meeting.

During a BOT meeting also on July 14, David Boliek and John Preyer were elected chairperson and vice chairperson of the Board in a unanimous vote. Six other new members were added in July. 

Also that month, Chapman wrote an op-ed in The Daily Tar Heel calling for the creation of a Coalition for Carolina to reform the University's governance system.

"The faculty, staff and students cannot change this situation alone," she wrote. "We need all those that love Carolina to come to our aid in a concerted, organized, sustained effort to reform the way our campus is governed and chart a forward course."

The Coalition for Carolina — a bipartisan group of students, staff, faculty, alumni and UNC community members —  launched Sept. 16. Co-founded by Chapman, the group launched with the goal of defending UNC from partisan interference and maintaining its autonomy as a campus.

On Oct. 7, the BOT held a special meeting to vote on a resolution to amend and restate the current delegations of authority between the BOT, BOG and University administration.

“I think this is a healthy exercise that we have been going through over the past several weeks with members of our leadership team to really take a closer look at these delegated authorities,” Guskiewicz said at the meeting. 

Boliek presented the proposed changes: 

  • Faculty appointments of more than three years with an annual salary greater than $100,000 would be approved by Guskiewicz or delegated by him to the Office of the Provost. 
  • Other fixed-term faculty appointments would be handled by the deans of specific schools.
  • Appointment of Tier II hires — which includes associate vice chancellors, assistant vice chancellors, associate deans and assistant deans — would be approved by the BOT instead of the University chancellor. 
  • The BOT would approve salary ranges for athletics assistant coaches.
  • UNC System President Peter Hans approved the BOT’s review of the delegation of powers in November. 

Increases in student costs  

The BOT Finance, Infrastructure and Audit Committee voted to increase out-of-state undergraduate tuition by two percent for the 2022-2023 academic year next in a Nov. 4 meeting, which will increase tuition from $34,882 to $35,580. 

The new state spending plan was signed by Cooper on Nov. 18, which included funding for the state's public universities.

Both the BOG and the BOT will take the rest of the year off following their November meetings. The BOG will meet Jan. 20 and the BOT will meet Jan. 26 to 27.