UNC System

Will reopening of NC’s universities in the fall be safe?

As North Carolina into a Phase 2 reopening plan, even as the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing in the state, universities are trying to decide what they’ll be doing this Fall. Will students return? Only some students? Will all classes be online? Only larger classes? How will they keep faculty, staff, and students safe?

In an online Board of Governors meeting, the UNC System’s president, Bill Roper, said he expects a return to campus by students in the fall and they’ll be finalizing guidance to the system’s 17 institutions by the end of the month. According to an email newsletter from IndyWeek, UNC-Chapel Hill may announce their fall plans as early as tomorrow. In a university-wide Zoom call yesterday, the administration announced a mix of instruction, with students wearing masks and in-person class sizes reduced.

Colleges and universities are unique institutions, bringing together a large population from around the country and even internationally in common spaces such as dorms, eating areas, research labs, and libraries. Some have working hospitals and medical clinics attached to them. The impacts of a contagious virus breakout wouldn’t be isolated to the campus - a university is part of the city or town surrounding it, where faculty, staff, and students live and mingle with the larger population. Think about the Tyson chicken processing plant outbreak in Wilkesboro and how that has spread COVID-19 to the surrounding community and across county lines.

It’s a complex issue to sort out. We have a large number of colleges and universities in all parts of the state, many part of the larger UNC system and others that are private secular and religious colleges.

If you aren’t paying attention to this debate and what universities are planning for the fall, you should be.

Tom Fetzer needs to be removed from UNC BOG

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His personal ambition has clouded what little judgment he ever had:

Fetzer, a member of the UNC Board of Governors, inserted himself into yet another leadership decision about the school last week, during a university governance committee meeting. This time it was the question of Van Isley’s appointment to the ECU Board of Trustees. Fetzer sought to delay a vote, arguing the board should vet Isley more thoroughly than the average trustee candidate.

In interviews with Policy Watch this week, three members of the UNC Board of Governors and two members of the ECU Board of Trustees said they no longer believe Fetzer can be objective about leadership decisions at ECU, and he should recuse himself from issues related to the school.

Fetzer is like the proverbial bad penny: he just keeps turning up. He was an empty suit as Raleigh Mayor (forgot about that, did you?), a shit-stirrer as NC GOP Chairman, and a back-room deal-maker as a lobbyist. Of course he believes he has "earned" the position as Chancellor for East Carolina, and that belief will drive him to continue to meddle in the school's affairs until he gets it. He already thinks he's the Decider of the Board of Governors:

UNC's interim President in hot water over conflicts of interest

You can't serve five masters:

William Roper, the current interim president of the University of North Carolina system and former longtime CEO of the UNC Health Care System, failed to disclose his seats on the boards of major corporations between 2011 and 2019, at the same time as those corporations did business with the state, records show.

None of his corporate board service was disclosed on state ethics forms until last week, when Roper filed amended forms in response to an inquiry from WBTV for this story.

James and I discussed some of these issues on our radio program nine years ago, and finding these potentially unethical connections (or overlaps) is not always easy. Google searches often drill down into corporate press releases, but the names of board members rarely show up in those broad searches. By the same token, when searching an individual, you may not see their corporate affiliation until you get to page 7 of the search. And you can forget LinkedIn, because that is almost exclusively information provided by the member, and if he/she doesn't want a connection to be made, well. Anyway, back to this story, and the dueling salaries involved:

UNC Board of Governors contemplating move out of Chapel Hill

Apparently they're afraid of those notorious Liberal Cooties:

At both the October committee meeting and November’s full board meeting, members discussed a perception that having the general administration staff in Chapel Hill confuses the UNC system and UNC-Chapel Hill. It also makes it look as though the Chapel Hill campus is superior to the other schools, they said.

“That’s a very minor part of this, but it’s still a consideration,” Kotis admits. “Are we the Board of Governors for the UNC Chapel Hill or the UNC system? What does it say about the link between UNCGA and Chapel Hill? Is it the favorite school? It’s like having your house near one kid’s house but not the other.”

Dude, it's the Flagship University. It was the first public University chartered by the NC Legislature in 1789, and the first public University in the *entire country* operating when it opened its doors in 1795. By contrast, it wasn't until 1931 that a "Board of Trustees" was formed to oversee the combination of three state-chartered universities (UNC-CH, UNC-G, NC State), and the BOG itself didn't materialize until 40 years after that. So yes, UNC Chapel Hill is the natural location for such a body. But this move may have a lot more to do with having an antsy real estate developer on the Board than even ideological considerations:

NC Senate Bill 873 ends HCBUs?

Tom Apodaca, a North Carolina senator from Hendersonville, has introduced Senate bill 873, that’s touted as the “Access to Affordable College Education Act”. It would lower tuition at some of the state’s historically black universities and guarantee that if students graduate, their tuition wouldn’t increase.

If you read the fine print, however, it effectively guts the idea of the state’s HBCUs.

GOP's newest attack on UNC System: 2 + 2 = 4

Forcing freshmen and sophomores into community colleges:

Speaking to a UNC Board of Governors committee, a key legislator hinted that a “guaranteed admission program” is ultimately intended to channel up to a quarter of the system’s undergraduates into community college.

He didn’t elaborate, except to say the attempt isn’t likely to come in this year’s session of the N.C. General Assembly. But such a move would almost certainly involve giving UNC campuses less of a per-student subsidy for freshmen and sophomores than for upperclassmen.

There are probably some (many?) reading this who think this might be a good idea. Heck, both of my UNC System graduate children took this route. But that transition from one institution to the next was far from easy, and ended up costing each of them an extra semester in the process. The General Assembly needs to keep its hands out of this situation, and let the students and their parents decide the best route for a degree. Aren't they the ones harping about "choice" anyway?

The search for Art Pope

The search committee to find the successor to UNC President Tom Ross has been announced. What characteristics were the Board of Governors seeking in search committee members? Perhaps knowledge of the university system, experience in recruiting top-level academics or knowledge about a presidential search process?

“You like to think that ideologies don’t matter because we’re all trying to find the very best leader for the university system, but in reality you do need a viewpoint of different ideologies in that process,” [Board of Governors vice chair Lou] Bissette said.

Esquire takes a swipe at Art Pope

And they don't pull any punches:

We have been somewhat remiss in this shebeen in our coverage of Art Pope, the A-ball Kochite who is the prime reason that the newly insane state of North Carolina has become newly insane. Governor Pat McCrory is the most conspicuous of Pope's various marionettes, which also include his pet state legislature as well as Thom Tillis, a brand-new member of the U.S. Senate. Spectacularly, McCrory appointed Pope his state budget director, which is tantamount to hiring Bernie Madoff as your Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, though, it appears that Pope has a brand-new shiny object in his sights that he would like to break.

I consider myself somewhat gifted in the area of enhanced vocabulary, but I did have to look up the word "shebeen." Which didn't help all that much, as it is described as an "unlicensed drinking establishment" or an "after-hours speakeasy." I'm sure Greg Flynn would have known, but then he knows a lot of stuff I don't. The article also quotes our friend Bob Geary over at the Indy:

UNC Board of Republican Governors launches inquisition

The mostly white, mostly male, mostly Republican UNC Board of Governors has launched an inquisition into several of the UNC system's centers that focus on various societal issues. Of the 240 centers statewide, the white male Republican inquisitors have chosen about 30 for special grilling on the hot seat. In case you're wondering if the centers chosen to be questioned in the spotlight largely address causes the tea party opposes (you know, poverty, women, diversity, the environment, civil rights and such), the answer is (SURPRISE!) yes.

The white male Republican inquisitors claim that their inquisition is all about efficiency, but of course it's really all about ideology and quashing opposition voices.

In a debate that at times veered into testy ideological exchange, UNC-Chapel Hill center directors mounted a vigorous justification of their work Thursday before a UNC Board of Governors panel reviewing more than two dozen centers and institutes.

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