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UNC Board of Governors Chairman To Critics: 'Pick Up The Phone And Call Us First'

File photo of UNC Board of Governors Chairman Harry Smith and UNC system President Margaret Spellings responding to questions about the aborted Western Carolina University chancellor search at a July 27, 2018 press conference.
Lisa Philip

The UNC Board of Governors, which oversees North Carolina's public universities, has voted to changed the way chancellor searches are conducted. The new policy includes a section on confidentiality mandating that candidates' identities not be disclosed to the public.The change comes after a lone member of the board hired an outside firm to run a background check on a finalist for the chancellor job at Western Carolina University. That finalist dropped out of the search soon afterwards and the process fell apart.

At the time, 10 former board members from both sides of the political aisle signed onto an editorial criticizing the current board, which is almost entirely Republican, for "clearly bad governance." Current board chair Harry Smith addressed the criticism after the board's vote yesterday.

“What I'd ask, if you want to be critical of the Board of Governors: Pick up the phone and call us first,” Smith said. “We're happy to have a conversation with you. And if we can't get you to a place where you're happy, and you want to take the media route, I'd certainly understand that.”

Smith said the board is taking on “issues that have plagued this system for some period of time, and are not going away.”

“I did not make it a press platform to go out and talk about all the things that this board has decided to tackle, and I’m not going to do that,” he said.

As a result of the new chancellor hiring policy, members of the Board of Governors will have more time to review finalists, but will not sit on campus search committees.

Lisa Philip is an occasional contributor to WUNC. Previously, she covered education for the station and covered schools in Howard County, Maryland for the Baltimore Sun newspapers.
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