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Higher Education Leaders Call for an End to Politics on UNC Board

In the Washington Post, Susan Svrluga covers the growing, bipartisan chorus of voices speaking out against poor board governance in the University of North Carolina system, including AAU President Mary Sue Coleman.

"He [Edwin Fisher, a professor in the Gillings Schools of Global Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill] noted that supporters of governance restructuring for the 17-institution system included business leaders and Republicans. “We can disagree on all sorts of things, but we agree on the need for a strong University of North Carolina,” Fisher said.

Last week, Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, wrote on the Higher Education Works Foundation website, “As a proud alumna of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), I have watched with dismay as the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) has plunged one of the world’s most respected institutions of higher learning into a crisis. This is the institution that in recent years garnered two Nobel Prizes for its faculty, helped sequence the human genome, developed new models for human disease and new drugs to fight cancer. The BOG has driven out three distinguished leaders in recent years: President Thomas Ross in 2016, President Margaret Spellings in 2018, and Chancellor Carol Folt in 2019.”

She wrote that the boards of public universities have a responsibility to ensure they empower the institutions’ leadership, not undermine it. UNC is not an outlier, she argued: In the past decade, universities in Virginia, Texas, Oregon and elsewhere “have struggled to maintain their identity and mission, provide the highest quality education, manage internal conflict, and combat challenges to their institutional autonomy."

Read the full article in the Washington Post.