Under the Dome

UNC search panel schedules multiple meetings this week

The search for the next UNC system president has an intense week ahead.

The presidential search committee has scheduled four meetings this week to consider candidates behind closed doors. Two meetings are set for Wednesday and Thursday at the Charlotte law offices of John Fennebresque, chairman of the UNC Board of Governors and member of the search committee. Two more meetings are set for Friday morning and Friday night at SAS, the software company in Cary. Ann Goodnight, wife of SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, is a vice chair of the search committee and an N.C. State University trustee.

An 11-member search committee has worked for months to find a successor to UNC President Tom Ross, 65, who will step down in January after the UNC board took action to push him out.

The process has been bogged down in recent weeks by dissension on the Board of Governors, with one committee chairman resigning his leadership position and others complaining that they’ve been kept in the dark on the search.

Key lawmakers have also expressed disapproval of the search panel’s work. Last week, the legislature passed a bill imposing term limits on UNC board members and requiring that the search committee take three finalists to the full 32-member Board of Governors before a vote is taken. Lawmakers dropped an amendment that would have required public disclosure of finalists and public discussion by the board.

Two former Board of Governors members had some advice for the search panel. Writing for Higher Education Works Foundation, Paul Fulton and Brad Wilson suggested that the board should maintain a confidential process and exercise independent judgment, doing nothing to politicize the president’s position. A strong, strategic visionary is needed, they wrote on the foundation’s website.

“As the UNC Board of Governors chooses a successor to outgoing President Tom Ross, the Board must maintain a process with the integrity and high standards that are consistent with the values of our university,” Fulton and Wilson wrote. “Set the bar high. Continue to search until the process yields a person of both state and national stature to lead the system. Our future as a state depends on it.”