Who are the key players in the NC higher education system?


A new generation of leaders called to rule higher education in North Carolina will have a role to play in deciding how UNC-Chapel Hill moves forward in the face of the latest challenges plaguing the university.

Six new members joined the UNC-CH board on Wednesday, shifting the governing body of the state’s flagship university further to the right. Four new members were also appointed this year to the Board of Governors of the UNC system, which sets policy and influences the priorities of the North Carolina higher education system.

Before you break down both the new and old influential players who will determine the future of North Carolina’s higher education system, here’s what you need to know:

The incoming roster of politically connected members of the state board, many of whom have been handpicked by the Republican-majority state legislature, are expected to rule the UNC-CH more conservatively than their predecessors. following a controversy over Pulitzer Award-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenure at UNC-Chapel Hill – a debacle that put the school in national limelight. The new board will guide how the school will fare.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a question of the Tory, the Liberal or the Moderate,” said newly elected board chairman David Boliek. “I would say it’s a question of people who love university and want to take it forward.

All current members of the UNC System Board of Governors and the UNC-CH Board of Trustees were appointed by a state legislature led by the Conservatives. And only one of the former lawmakers who sit on either board is a Democrat.

At the end of June, the board of directors voted in favor of Hannah-Jones’ tenure after his several-month delay hit national headlines.

His initial failure to grant Hannah-Jones a lifetime tenure as part of his hiring as Knight Chair at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media angered the state and the country, putting pressure on the board to back off.

Hannah-Jones ultimately turned down the job, instead taking a similar job at Howard University.

Partly because of his handling of Hannah-Jones’ tenure, faculty members at UNC-CH met on Wednesday over concerns that Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz could be ousted in the near future. It remains to be seen whether the board of governors will vote at its meeting next week to remove him, and how much of a say campus administrators might have in that decision.

In his first meeting on Thursday, however, after UNC-CH trustees resolved some of the university’s recent issues and legal issues behind closed doors, Boliek expressed board support for Guskiewicz and his desire to overcome recent controversies.

“We support the Chancellor as we work together to move this university forward,” Boliek said.

North Carolina General Assembly Branch

Members of the North Carolina State House and Senate are responsible for appointing all members of the UNC System Board of Governors and four members of the UNC-CH Board of Trustees, extending the influence of legislators far beyond the halls of the General Assembly. The Board of Governors then appoints eight directors.

Many of the current members of these two councils have been handpicked by the state’s top Republicans: Senate Leader Phil Berger, originally from Eden; and Speaker of the House, Tim Moore, a graduate of UNC-CH. Lobbyists, former state lawmakers and major political donors rise and fall on boards of directors year after year.

UNC Board of Governors

Responsible for governing the UNC system, appointing members at the 16 public universities in North Carolina and electing the two chancellors for each school as well as the president of the UNC system, the 24 members The Board of Governors is the most powerful governing body of higher education in the state. Board members can serve up to three full four-year terms.

The chancellor and the chairman of the board of UNC-CH both recommended four people appointed by the board to the board of governors this year. However, the Board of Governors did not name any of the Chancellor’s or President’s recommendations.

“We just thought that Chapel Hill management needed a little more rejuvenation on the board,” said David Powers, member of the board of governors, who leads the director nomination process. “We chose to go in another direction.

Their selections included a former politically connected Board member and two former Republican lawmakers.

UNC system staff / helpers

From 2019, three consultants have been asked to assist the Board of Governors in the search for a new president:

  • Jim Blaine, former chief of staff to Senator Berger.
  • Former lobbyist and NC GOP executive director Chris McClure.
  • Former Republican State Senator Pete Brunstetter.

After a year-long search, the board of governors chose Peter Hans, a former lobbyist and Republican political adviser, as chairman of the system in August 2020. But at least one of the consultants – Blaine – is still under contract with the UNC system. even if the research is over. In 2020, McClure was named executive vice president and chief of staff for the UNC system.

Hans can recommend that any university chancellor be dismissed. However, the Board of Governors of the UNC system has the ultimate power to remove a Chancellor and can initiate this decision itself.

Other politically related employees:

  • Andrew Tripp, also a former chief of staff at Berger, is general counsel for UNC System.
  • Bart Goodson, Moore’s former chief of staff, is the senior vice president of government relations at the UNC system – serving as a direct link between the system and the legislature.

Returning BOG members

This year, the State Senate renewed to the board of directors:

The State House was reappointed this year:

Members whose mandate has not yet expired:

  • Jim Holmes, who helped orchestrate the settlement of the Silent Sam Confederate monument which was later overturned by a judge. Holmes also employed the Republican Majority Leader in the House, Representative John Bell until last year at his company, Sentinel Risk Advisors..
  • David Powers, a well-connected lobbyist who represents DraftKings, the employer of a newly elected board member.
  • Thom Goolsby, a lobbyist and former state senator.
  • Mark Holton, Alex Mitchell, Phil Byers, Terry Hutchens, Anna Spangler Nelson, Temple Sloan and Pearl Burris-Floyd.

New BOG members appointed by the legislator

They include:

  • Lee Roberts, partner in an investment firm and former budget manager for the government of the day. Pat McCrory, a Republican.
  • Sonja Phillips Nichols, CEO of a security services company and former Republican candidate for the State Senate. Nichols ran in 2020 against Senator Jeff Jackson for his Charlotte seat.
  • Kirk Bradley, real estate developer and CEO of a real estate investment company in the Triangle.
  • John Fraley, former Republican member of the North Carolina General Assembly.

Former Democratic state senator Joel Ford, who was not nominated this year but is still a relatively new member of the board, was known in the state legislature for his willingness to work with the republicans. Appointed in 2020, the state Senate called on Ford to fulfill the tenure of Darrell Allison, who resigned from the UNC board in September to become chancellor of Fayetteville State University. Ford is the only Democrat on the board.

Officers of the UNC-CH Board of Directors

Each member of the board graduated from UNC-CH. The main members of the board:

  • Newly elected President Boliek works with Williford. Boliek is also a former journalist, political consultant and public relations professional. He voted against granting the mandate to Hannah-Jones in June.
  • John Preyer, the new vice president, who is the co-founder and president of an environmental company. Preyer, who has close ties to Berger, also voted against granting the mandate to Hannah-Jones.

New robot members appointed by the legislature or the BOG

The new members are:

  • Former State Sen. Rob bryan
  • Former state representative Perrin Jones, who served a short period before losing in a close race to the Democrats Representative Brian Farkas for NC House District 9 in Greenville.
  • Malcolm Turner, Director of DraftKings. Board member Pope criticized his appointment to the board, stressing that The promotion by DraftKings of sports betting in college sports as a conflict of interest. The fantasy sports company is also lobbying the legislature to legalize sports betting in the state outside of tribal casinos.
  • Businesswoman Ramsey White.
  • Real estate developer and former Board member Marty Kotis, who was appointed by the State Senate. Kotis has made many contributions to Republicans in North Carolina in recent years, including Berger.
  • Vinay Patel, owner of a chain of hotels in Charlotte, and who was nominated by the State House.

BOT back members

Former Vice President Gene Davis, who worked with Holley, a member of the Board of Governors, and is close to Moore. Davis voted in favor of granting the Hannah-Jones mandate.

When asked if he received any heat for his decision to vote yes, Davis, who was nominated by Moore, said the speaker contacted him within hours of the vote.

“President Moore had texted me to let me know he was convinced the way I voted was the best for the college,” Davis said in an interview with The News & Observer on Wednesday.

Davis said Moore told him, “Gene, I might not be okay with what you’re going to do, but I want you to do what you think is best for college.”

Davis said of the possibility of Guskiewicz being ousted: “We all just need to take a deep breath.”

The other returning members are Teresa Artis Neal, Ralph Meekins and Allie Ray McCullen. McCullen also voted no for the incumbency of Hannah-Jones.

Clayton Somers is Deputy Secretary to the Board of Directors and attends all of these meetings.

Somers previously served as Moore’s chief of staff and works closely with the state legislature as UNC-CH’s vice chancellor for public affairs. He and BOG member Jim Holmes orchestrated the Silent Sam Confederate monument settlement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which drew sharp criticism in Chapel Hill and was later overturned by a judge.

As the school year approaches, these new and old leaders will likely continue to be tested, showing where their allegiances lie.

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Kate Murphy covers higher education for The News & Observer. Previously, she covered higher education for the Cincinnati Enquirer in the Investigation and Corporate Team and USA Today Network. Her work has won state awards in Ohio and Kentucky and she was recently named the 2019 Education Writers Association finalist for digital storytelling.
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