Breaking down the power structure and the history of the UNC board



Over the past decade, there have been visible and pervasive changes within the UNC Board of Trustees.

On July 14, David Boliek and John Preyer were elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman, respectively. The votes were unanimous and there were no other candidates, according to UNC Media Relations.

Boliek and Preyer were two of four directors who voted against Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones in office on June 30. finally declined.

Six directors were added to the board in July. They understand:

  • Rob Bryan, former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, Senate and Board of Governors
  • Perrin Jones, former member of the NC House of Representatives
  • Marty Kotis, real estate developer in Greensboro and member of the BOG
  • Vinay Patel, responsible for external affairs of SREE hotels
  • Malcolm Turner, Executive at DraftKings
  • Ramsey White, businesswoman and former deputy director of development at the Morehead-Cain Foundation.

The board of directors has jurisdiction over UNC-Chapel Hill. Thirteen members advise the Chancellor and the Board of Governors on academic matters. This differs from the Board of Governors, whose 28 members are fully elected by the NC General Assembly and have jurisdiction over the 17 schools in the UNC system.

None of the directors responded to a request for comment.

The UNC administration, on the other hand, is headed by the Chancellor, who implements BOT and BOG policies and can make staff and budget recommendations to the President of the UNC system. The provost also guides academic planning and directs the dean of each school.

Changes over the decade

In 2010, state elections brought Republican control of the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives to the General Assembly for the first time since 1896.

When Governor Roy Cooper was elected after a close race in the 2016 election, the Republican-controlled legislature decided to limit its ability to appoint officials to state and county election boards, in addition to the UNC system.

Two laws were passed in late December 2016 before Cooper took office on January 1, 2017.

  • House Bill 17, a law stripping the governor of the power to appoint BOT members of the UNC system. This power now rests with the Board of Governors and the General Assembly.
  • Senate Bill 4, an act to change the number of members of North Carolina state and county electoral councils are appointed by the governor and the General Assembly. The law has also changed when each political party will chair all the boards.

Faculty UNC chairperson Mimi Chapman said the actions of the Republican legislature made both the BOG and BOT less representative of the general public in North Carolina.

“It took us a few years to get to where we are now with this new board, where in reality we have a very partisan situation on the board of directors and the board of governors,” Chapman said.

The UNC system returned comments on these 2016 laws to members of the state legislature. The sponsors of HB 17 and SB 4 did not respond to requests for comment at the time of posting.

Current power struggles

Thomas Ross, the former president of the UNC system from 2011 to 2016, said a large majority of governance responsibilities rest with the BOG, the board responsible for electing the president of the UNC system.

When he was president, Ross said that one of the responsibilities of the BOG was to oversee the recommendations of the president of the system to hire chancellors for each campus.

In 2020, the UNC system put in place new rules that gave more power to the president.

In September 2020, the BOG approved a change to the chancellor search process that allows the president to recommend two candidates. Under this policy, at least one of the candidates must become a finalist for the position, even if the campus search committees do not agree with the choice.

Regarding the leadership changes, Chapman said she believes there has already been a change in power over the BOT. Chapman said it is traditional for the Chancellor to make suggestions to BOT members, citing that they don’t need to be accepted, but some usually are.

But none of Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz’s recommendations were accepted, Chapman said at an emergency faculty council meeting in July.

“It’s a pretty aggressive move, and I think it indicates a shift in power if it goes unnoticed, and if it stays in the dark and doesn’t appear in the light,” Chapman said.

Barbara Hyde, former UNC administrator from 2005 to 2013, said the rejection of the Chancellor’s suggestions was a particularly significant change.

When she was a trustee, Hyde said, half of the BOT was appointed by the BOG and the other half by the governor. She said that she herself had been nominated by the BOG.

“At that point, I got the impression that the Board of Governors chose the Trustees based on a history of service at the University that gave us all some kind of deep relationship with the University and a understanding of the challenges facing the Chancellor and his team. ,” she said.

It seemed non-partisan, she said, her perception being that she had been appointed because she had a history of involvement, commitment and service at UNC.

“I think it created more balance and isolated the appointment process a bit more from politics,” she said. “It really was more about the talent we all brought to the board and our commitment to the University. “

What change is needed?

Chapman said the current power structure raises many questions about the current BOT’s willingness to advocate for funds at the General Assembly.

“If you think of faculty and staff, we’ve had virtually no increases in years,” she said. “It makes it very difficult for people to stay when there’s a significant counter-offer from another institution, or if there’s an equivalent position at, you know, later at Duke.”

Chapman cites this as an example of how professors, staff, and students at UNC could be punished for speaking out or not following a particular path important to officials with political interests.

Ross said he felt reform of those governing bodies was needed even before being chairman of the UNC system.

“The Board of Governors has become more political,” said Ross. “And I think part of that has to do with the way they’re named and selected.”

He said this is not serving the University well and it is best to have a governing body that focuses on what is best for the UNC system and each of its campuses.

Hyde said more work should be spent on a stronger governance model.

“I believe in the strength of the institution,” she said. “I think the job of trustees is to support amazing faculty, the strongest student body we’ve ever had and a strong leader as chancellor – that’s what I think trustees’ priority should be. . “


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