The search for a replacement for N.C. Central University’s late chancellor, Debra Saunders-White, formally began this month when officials named a 22-member search committee to screen candidates.
The group includes seven of the 13 members of the campus trustee board, led by the trustees’ chairman, George Hamilton. He will also chair the search committee and pledged to “conduct a search that is inclusive of our community.”
Officials added that group intends “a national search” for candidates.
But they also acknowledged the committee and the trustees aren’t the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to picking chancellors. The president of the UNC system, Margaret Spellings, and the system Board of Governors will ultimately make the hire.
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Under policy revised in 2015, the search committee is supposed to give trustees “an unranked slate” of three candidates. The trustees are to forward that slate to the president.
Spellings and her staff will conduct the final interviews, the president having the authority to pick one of the candidates or return the slate to the trustees “with instructions for further action.”
Presuming Spellings accepts someone from from the initial slate, her choice then has to go through the Board of Governors’ personnel committee and ultimately the full board for ratification. Formally, the board elects the hire, but in practice its vote confirms the president’s nominee.
The search will give Spellings her second chance to hire a chancellor for a system campus, the first coming last April when she chose former Mercer University professor and Georgia state lawmaker Cecil Staton to head East Carolina University.
ECU’s search, however, was underway before Spellings became president of the 17-campus UNC system, so N.C. Central’s chancellor search will the first to unfold entirely on her watch.
Along with Hamilton, the trustees on the search committee are John Barbee, Darrell Allison, Oita Coleman, Michael Johnson, Alesha Holland and Kenneth Tindall.
Holland, a NCCU senior, is president of the university’s student government and the only current student on the committee. Her student government post makes her an ex-officio trustee.
Two campus deans, Carlton Wilson and Phyllis Craig-Taylor, are on the committee. Wilson heads the College of Arts and Sciences; Craig-Taylor is dean of the law school.
Joining them from the faculty are Kimberly Cogdell Grainger, a law professor who’s chairwoman of NCCU’s Faculty Senate.
From the administration, Director of Athletics Ingrid Wicker-McCree and Vice Chancellor of Institutional Advancement Harriet Davis got seats. Davis is the university’s chief fundraiser.
Other campus representatives are Demetria Robinson, a staffer in the law library and chairwoman of the Staff Senate; Samuel Cooper, president of the NCCU Alumni Association; and Frankie Perry, president of the NCCU Foundation Inc.
From the broader Durham and Triangle community, seats went to Dwight Perry, a surgeon and former NCCU trustee; Michael Goodmon, vice president for real estate at Capitol Broadcasting Inc. and operator of the American Tobacco complex; Bert L’Homme, superintendent of the Durham Public Schools; state District Judge Elaine Bushfan; and Geoff Durham, president of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce.
Rounding out the panel are Phail Wynn, vice president for regional affairs at Duke University and a former president of Durham Tech, and Joan MacNeill, a Board of Governors member.
MacNeill’s on the panel to observe and advise, a role the board created when it revised the chancellor-selection process in 2015. System policy says she’s supposed to “refrain from actively participating” in candidate interviews or in the search committee’s “deliberations regarding candidates.”
Saunders-White was NCCU’s chancellor from 2013 until her death, from cancer, on Nov. 26. She’d been on medical leave throughout the fall semester; Provost Johnson Akinleye took over as acting chancellor in August.
NCCU fee survives initial review
N.C. Central University’s proposed student-fee package for 2017-18 cleared its first major hurdle on Thursday, getting through a preliminary review by UNC system leaders without drawing criticism.
The budget committee of the UNC system’s Board of Governors looked at the Central’s request alongside the tuition and fee plans of the system’s other 15 universities. None of its members raised an objection, even though NCCU’s proposal nominally clocks in well above a cap on annual fee increases imposed by the N.C. General Assembly.
Legislators have said campuses can’t raise the set of fees all students pay by more than 3 percent in any one year. But N.C. Central’s increase would clock in at 6.6 percent, the difference between it and other campuses coming because it’s in the midst of phasing in a levy to help pay for a new student center.
“The 3 percent cap has caught this one project a little bit,” Jonathan Pruitt, the UNC system’s senior vice president for budget and finance, told committee members. “We want to be sure everyone understands that.”
Board members last year gave NCCU permission to raise the campus debt-service fee by $250, on the understanding administrators would return this year for another $100 increase related to the project.
Also last year, the N.C. General Assembly gave Central the OK to go ahead with the $36.1 million construction project, which will replace the 1960s-era Alfonso Elder Student Union.
Given those dual approvals of the project, system officials are treating the related fee phase-in as something that’s grandfathered.
Staff writer Ray Gronberg