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BOT Finance Committee continues conversations regarding SCiLL


Mimi Chapman, chairperson of the UNC faculty, interacts with UNC Trustee Perrin Jones on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. Chapman emphasized to the UNC Board of Trustees concerns of the faculty regarding the development of the School of Civic Life and Leadership program.

At its Wednesday meeting, multiple members of the Board of Trustees' Budget, Finance and Infrastructure Committee expressed reservations with the way the January resolution regarding the School of Civic Life and Leadership was passed. The trustees postponed their vote on the fiscal year 2024 budget for the University, partially as a result of the conflict over the SCiLL.

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Trustee John Preyer, chairperson of the committee, said that he would not vote for the budget because it did not include a specific allotment for the SCiLL. He said that the “overwhelming response” to the SCiLL had been positive. Some members who support the proposed school, including Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, tried to assuage Preyer’s concern about the lack of a line item request.

“We don’t have a school at this point in time. We have a process in place for how curricular expansion of the Program for Public Discourse would inform us about what would be needed,” Guskiewicz said.

He said that the budget has an adequate reserve for dealing with expenses of currently unknown costs, such as lead remediation, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and the expansion of the Program for Public Discourse — the latter of which SCiLL is planned to be an outgrowth of.

Preyer, though, was not consoled, worrying that the SCiLL would take years to develop, like the School of Data Science.

“It is a matter of principle," Preyer said. "I would like to see a specific ask with a dollar amount in this budget, and I think that that is consistent with what we did last meeting. It's sort of a promise that ‘hey don’t worry, we’re going to do something on this.’ I don’t think that’s leadership.

Trustee Teresa Artis Neal agreed that the SCiLL should be funded, but said that she had been left out of relevant conversations, while Trustee Ralph Meekins expressed discontent with the process, saying he had only been presented with the resolution an hour before the vote. 

Student Body President Taliajah "Teddy" Vann said that she had thought the resolution was only to kick off a longer process of considering creating the school, and Meekins agreed.

“I specifically recall in the discussions we had before I voted on it. I was told it was aspirational, and that basically it was an effort to push forward the (Program for Public Discourse), ” Meekins said.

Provost Chris Clemens, a supporter of the SCiLL, said that most faculty are in favor of the proposed school. He believes that the faculty who were surprised by the proposal "weren’t involved or didn’t pay attention” over the previous years, saying that the development has been a collaborative process that began in 2018. 

While Wednesday’s meeting showed more reservation among the BOT than the January 12-0 vote on the original SCiLL resolution implied, no members explicitly opposed the idea.  

The BOT voted without dissent to postpone its vote on the 2024 fiscal year budget because of further conversations regarding the SCiLL, and some members felt the budget needed further clarification. 

The vote must be held by April 30, but the BOT does not have another scheduled meeting until May 17. 

Other developments at the meeting

Nate Knuffman, vice chancellor for finance and operations, presented the proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year, which is balanced and totals $4.15 billion. It is larger in nominal terms than this year’s budget of almost $4.04 billion, but smaller if adjusted for inflation. 

Boliek expressed concerns about some of the ways UNC Health’s funding interacts with the annual budget. He called UNC Health’s organizational chart “a plate of spaghetti,” worrying that its finances were too opaque.

George Battle, the vice chancellor for institutional integrity and risk management, reported to the BOT that the process of testing water in buildings for lead is nearly complete, with one test yet to come back. Of the nearly 200 students and staff who have been tested, none have had abnormal blood-lead levels, Battle said, and testing will remain available through April 30.

Battle also provided an update on campus security efforts, and Guskiewicz said the University hopes to have cameras at the entrance of every residence hall by July 15. 

The committee tabled a motion to renew a lease on a building owned by the University. 


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