From J. Craig Souza of Raleigh, a member of the UNC Board of Governors:
I am troubled by the suggestion by some that the UNC Board of Governors is somehow overly influenced by political pressure. I know this not to be true. Yes, the makeup of the Board has changed, but that hasn’t removed our responsibility to act in the best interest of UNC system.
My membership on the Board of Governors dates back to 1997, when Democrats largely dominated the Board. This was logical, because all 32 members are appointed by the General Assembly, and Democrats were in the majority.
Though a Republican, I served two terms as the Board’s Vice Chair from 2004-2008. I also proudly served as Vice Chair of the Presidential Search Committee in 2005, when we selected Erskine Bowles to be the fourth President of the University of North Carolina system.
In 2013, I was re-appointed to the Board with Republicans in control of the General Assembly. The Board did not make partisan decisions during my previous terms and it does not now. To suggest otherwise is simply wrong.
The assertion that the University system is at risk under the leadership of this Board is equally wrong. The UNC system continues to grow, attracting talent from around the world, and provides unparalleled education, scholarship and service to North Carolina.
This Board of Governors, like others before them, works very hard to further the University’s goals and mission. We must accommodate the system’s growth, keep tuition affordable, ensure access, yet also be mindful of the financial, societal and technological forces demanding change in higher education.
Thankfully, the General Assembly recognizes the challenges confronting higher education and has included much-needed additional funding for the University system in its current budget proposals. In fact, we appear on track for the best budget we have had in many years. That suggests our senators and representatives have listened to the needs advocated by this sitting Board of Governors – and we are grateful for their wisdom and support.
As you indicated in recent editorials, the proof of our judgment and independence lies in our selection of the person who will serve as the next President of this great university.
I agree, and hope the people of North Carolina will watch and participate in our rigorous presidential selection process. And then evaluate our performance. We will make North Carolina proud – no matter your political persuasion.