A review by the University of North Carolina system Board of Governors of more than 200 centers and institutes on UNC campuses raises justifiable concerns on the part of university officials.
The board historically doesn’t get into the business of micromanaging the activities on individual campuses. That’s the job of administrators and to some degree, members of Boards of Trustees.
But now, BOG members say they want to look at the centers, which follows a recommendation in the spring from Gov. Pat McCrory that the budget for the centers be cut by $13 million. That didn’t happen, but GOP leaders did direct the BOG to consider cutting state money for centers and institutes and redirecting the money to other priorities.
There is a legitimate worry that this study may in fact be all about one center and one person: the Poverty Center at UNC-Chapel Hill’s law school directed by Professor Gene Nichol, an unabashed liberal who has written opinion pieces sharply critical of the governor and Republicans. Nichol was some time back directed by his supervisors to make it clear that he wasn’t speaking for the university in what he wrote.
Some of these centers deal with academic endeavors such as teaching, while others help lead the research mission, and they do good work. They also brought in federal grants and other gifts worth $556 million system-wide in 2013-14.
The Board of Governors is edging here outside the bounds of its mission of supervising the system budget and setting overall policy. No wonder some on campuses believe they have reason to worry.