The search for a president

The search for a president

Laney Ruckstuhl

Appalachian faculty wonders what the UNC presidency search means for the future

Tom Ross, president of the North Carolina school system, addresses the chancellor search committee at a meeting at Appalachian State in August 2013. File Photo | The Appalachian

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has not yet announced when the search for a new system president will begin, though the process is already raising questions and has been proposed to change.

The resignation of current UNC-system president Tom Ross was unexpectedly announced last month during a regular BOG meeting.

Ross said during a press conference following the announcement that he wasn’t planning on leaving just yet, but the BOG had a different timeline in mind.

According to the resignation statement, Ross will continue to serve until Jan. 3, 2016 while the board begins the search.

As is under the UNC Policy Manual, the procedure for the selection of a system president states that the search committee shall consist of 20 individuals, including four system chancellors, three faculty members, four BOG members, one student and eight others.

However, the Board of Governors proposed a few possible changes to the search process in a meeting Jan. 24, though none of these proposals will be approved or denied until the BOG votes on the policy.

The search is confidential, but rumors have arisen surrounding possible candidates.

The leading rumor is Art Pope, North Carolina’s former budget director, as noted by The News & Observer and The Daily Tar Heel. Pope is also the state’s largest political donor, a known ally of conservative politicians such as the Koch brothers.

On Jan. 20, Pope appeared on Time Warner Cable News’ Capital Tonight and denied that he was planning on running for the presidency, but said if asked, he would consider the position.

“I would never flat rule out an opportunity to serve the public,” Pope told Tim Boyum during the interview.

According to the policy manuals’ conflict of interest chapter, the BOG will not consider any person who was a member of the BOG at any time during the two-year period immediately preceding an appointment to any position.

This provision would apply to BOG members who have resigned from their posts, such as Fred Eshelman, who resigned June 30, 2014.

Eshelman did not give reason for leaving his post, but could be considered for the presidency despite the provision if he were to be officially installed on or after June 30, 2016.

but has not made a statement regarding intention to run for the presidency.

It is important to note that these are just rumors and no candidates have been identified.

Appalachian’s Faculty Senate Vice Chair Paul Gates said he thinks the criteria for hiring the next president should include actual classroom and university administrative experience

“I think it would be a huge mistake to hire somebody who is not an academic,” Gates said. “Public education needs a friend, not an enemy. I fear that we’re not going to get that.”

Andy Koch, Faculty Senate chair, member of the UNC-system’s Faculty Assembly and of no relation to the Koch brothers said he is reluctant to believe any rumors surrounding possible candidacy, but also hopes they will look for someone with academic experience.

Andy Koch said the Faculty Assembly, made up of the chairs from every UNC-system school’s faculty senate, is apprehensive about the search.

“Ross had a pretty good relationship with the faculty assembly and his sudden removal has raised a lot of concerns and unanswered questions,” Koch said.

Koch listed possible fears among the Faculty Senate as less respect for faculty governance, lowered funding for research, higher teaching loads and lack of tenure, among others.

“There is fear that the new president won’t be as respectful of having a faculty voice in participating in the decision making at the highest level of the system,” he said.

However, Koch said he doesn’t want to speculate until the BOG gives a clear signal as to what they are planning for the future of the system.

“These are nothing but fears,” Koch said.  “We have no reason to believe that they’re going to do anything because we don’t know what the policies will be. There are not just potential dangers, there are potential benefits.”

Story: Laney Ruckstuhl, News Editor