The virtues of giving large raises to 12 of 17 chancellors in the University of North Carolina system can be fairly debated. But what’s not open for dispute is the arrogance and ineptitude exhibited by the UNC Board of Governors in the granting of those raises in a secret meeting. The public was not privy to the debate or to the reasons for the action, simply because this board didn’t wish to do its duty in reporting to the people it is supposed to serve.
Instead, the board dominated by Republicans appointed by the GOP-run General Assembly acted as if it were the board of a private corporation.
The News & Observer is among the media organizations that objected to the closed meeting and The N&O has continued to pursue minutes of the meeting, which have not been released as required by law. Instead, the UNC system’s lawyer says the minutes haven’t been prepared and the board will take up the issue in its December meeting.
But now a special meeting has been called for today, because members of the General Assembly are concerned that the board may have violated the Open Meetings law. These legislators are the ones who put BOG members in place, but even they feel poorly informed about the board’s activities. They were miffed by the way the board chose a new UNC system president, Margaret Spellings, without keeping legislative leaders in the loop.
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The board’s “we know best, mind your own business” attitude toward the public won’t cut it. And board members who are uncomfortable with doing the people’s business in public, and with full disclosure of how that business was done, shouldn’t be on the board.
A decision made in secret, particularly when it involves something as volatile as big raises for chancellors who already make big salaries, loses credibility with the public. For such decisions appear to be arbitrary, and the secrecy only makes people suspicious.
Making the case for chancellor raises, or any other controversial action, in public only strengthens public confidence that such action was duly considered.
The board has done itself damage by reverting to secrecy on an issue that deserved public debate.