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Once again, UNC System President gains new role in choosing chancellors

Peter Hans
Gerry Broome
FILE - In this May 1, 2018, file photo, Peter Hans delivers remarks during a news conference in Raleigh, N.C.

The UNC System board of governors approved a policy change Thursday that gives the System president — Peter Hans — more control over selecting chancellors who lead public universities in North Carolina.

The change substantially rewrites a section of the UNC System’s policy manual on chancellor searches, rather than making amendments to the existing policy.

This comes three years after the last policy change related to chancellor searches, which gave the System president the ability to nominate candidates for chancellor positions early in the process and then select a final candidate from among two or more finalists determined by a search committee. That change was passed by the Board of Governors early in the tenure of Hans. This new policy repeals the provision that gave the president that authority.

The new “Policy on Chancellor Searches and Elections” passed Thursday states the UNC System President “has the primary responsibility for ensuring there is a thorough and reliable process that reflects the needs of the institution, the System, and the state.”

Changes prioritize the role of the UNC System president in chancellor searches.

Under the new policy:

  • The UNC System president or their designee shall serve as an ex officio member of the search advisory committee.
  • The UNC System president determines search advisory committee membership; develops a statement and list of skills that successful candidates are expected to meet; interviews finalists; helps check the finalist’s references; and negotiates the terms of employment for a chancellor-elect.
  • The chair of the Board of Governors or their designee and the Board of Governors’ liaison to the university shall serve as ex officio members of the search advisory committee. The prior policy prohibited any members of the Board of Governors from serving as a member of the search committee.
  • A sitting or retired chancellor from another UNC System university must serve as a voting member on the search advisory committee.
  • The UNC System president will consult with the chair of the university’s board of trustees to appoint a search advisory committee that consists of no more than 13 voting members. The prior policy allowed for up to 20 members on search committees representing the board of trustees, the faculty, the student body, the staff, alumni and the local community. The new policy lists similar constituencies, plus the UNC System.

The document above shows the "Policy on Chancellor Searches and Elections” passed Thursday, May 25, 2023.

File photo of UNC System President Peter Hans.
Liz Schlemmer
File photo of UNC System President Peter Hans (left).

The board of governors approved the policy change Thursday without discussion, after it was discussed and approved by a joint committee in April. The policy change came after a months-long examination on the role of chancellors by the Board of Governors' strategic initiatives committee.

The UNC System faculty assembly chair Wade Maki, a professor of philosophy at UNC-Greensboro, referenced the policy change in a speech to the Board of Governors that began with musings on Plato’s description of the three parts of the human soul.

“When a part doesn't function, or tries to function in place of another, we have disorder. This applies to systems as well as people,” Maki said.

Maki said the Faculty Assembly had one suggestion for the new search process.

“With the smaller search committee, we request to find ways to include groups of faculty leaders under NDAs [non-disclosure agreements] in the late stages of the process to help build that day one support that new chancellors find valuable,” Maki said. “From my recent conversations with many of you, I'm confident that this can and will be done.”

Clarification: This story and the headline has been clarified to reflect that the policy change repealed a prior policy that allowed the president to nominate and select finalists for a chancellor position.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email: lschlemmer@wunc.org