Board leader urges sup­port for pres­i­dent of the UNC sys­tem

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Stay Connected - BY ALEX DEROSIER As­so­ci­ated Press

The chair­man of the North Carolina univer­sity sys­tem’s Board of Gover­nors asked mem­bers Friday to unite be­hind the sys­tem’s pres­i­dent amid on­go­ing dis­agree­ments among lead­er­ship.

In his first meet­ing as chair­man of the board, Harry Smith urged mem­bers at the mid-year meet­ing to set aside po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences and sup­port Pres­i­dent Mar­garet Spellings.

“It is my hope this board will unite be­hind Mar­garet Spellings, give her a voice, and let her be heard,” Smith said be­fore go­ing into a closed ses­sion. “She has great ex­pe­ri­ence, knowl­edge, and it is my hope we rec­og­nize that.”

Spellings is less than half­way through her fiveyear con­tract as univer­sity sys­tem pres­i­dent. The for­mer ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary for Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush took over as head of the 17-cam­pus sys­tem in March 2016.

She was se­lected after the Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated univer­sity board forced out a pre­de­ces­sor named when Democrats had greater in­flu­ence.

Smith told re­porters at a news con­fer­ence after the board meet­ing that his call for mem­bers to back Spellings was not re­lated to any sin­gle is­sue, but it comes after sev­eral weeks of con­tro­versy on the board.

This month, the board failed to ap­prove Spellings’ nom­i­nee for Western Carolina Univer­sity chan­cel­lor, who with­drew be­cause of di­rect in­ter­fer­ence from a board mem­ber, the Raleigh News & Ob­server re­ported Friday.

In a UNC board meet­ing Thurs­day, in­for­ma­tion emerged that board mem­ber Tom Fet­zer had per­son­ally in­volved him­self in the vet­ting process for the nom­i­nee, a move other mem­bers said was out­side the au­thor­ity of the body, the news­pa­per re­ported.

Spellings also has faced crit­i­cism for her han­dling of protests of a Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ment on the flag­ship Chapel Hill cam­pus.

She was re­proached for a de­ci­sion last year to re­quest added se­cu­rity in the wake of deadly racist vi­o­lence in Char­lottesvill­e, Va.

A ma­jor­ity of board mem­bers signed a let­ter crit­i­ciz­ing “weak­ness” in­stead of a dis­play of strength as pro­test­ers planned a huge demon­stra­tion to de­mand the re­moval of a Con­fed­er­ate sol­dier statue from a cen­tral spot on cam­pus.

Spellings and for­mer gov­ern­ing board chair­man Louis Bis­sette wrote to Demo­cratic Gov. Roy Cooper seek­ing state help with se­cu­rity be­cause cam­pus po­lice feared a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous con­fronta­tion.

Spellings called lead­er­ship con­flicts grow­ing pains, telling re­porters that dis­agree­ments among lead­er­ship are part of an on­go­ing process.

“I think we’ve all learned a few things over the past cou­ple of weeks, and I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing the con­ver­sa­tion,” she said.


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