In our February 2, 2022 webinar, Winston-Salem businessman and former Board of Governors member Mr. Paul Fulton provided suggestions for how the UNC system governing bodies can provide stability and leadership that empowers not distracts. Some of his suggestions:
- Ensure that the diversity of the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees matches the diversity of North Carolina and our universities.
- De-politicize the selection process:
- Distribute responsibility for appointing board members more broadly.
- Restore the governor’s previously stripped appointing ability.
- Perhaps adopt a law that would require minority party representation.
- Appoint qualified board members who:
- Fit with the universities’ needs
- Understand that their duty and loyalty is to the institution that the board represents not to the institution or elected official that appoints board members.
- Perform their duties according to governance best practices. Their role is to shape policy, not micromanage, nor get involved in day-to-day operations.
Video transcript of Mr. Paul Fulton – Winston-Salem businessman and former Board of Governors member:
I’m a firm believer that our university is the state’s greatest asset. I know a lot of other people that would agree with that. But today, as you’ve heard, a little bit already, our university tells
a very complicated story with world class highs. (We’ve certainly had a number of those.) We also have some dominating headline lows. And in recent years, the turmoil has risen sharply.
The UNC system has had its reputation tarnished. Good leaders have left our campuses and our campus has been upended and distracted. So, to me, it leaves us with one really central question, how can the UNC system provide stability and leadership that empowers not distracts the leaders of our campus level where the real work is really being done?
Put differently, how can we improve governance?
The two basic issues or problems facing our university regarding governance. Number one is over politicization of our governing boards. Number two, the selection process for our government boards and the two are definitely connected.
So here are a few suggestions from these prominent leaders. First, from Don Flow, a prominent Winston Salem business man and leader, and I quote Don, “For decades,
The UNC system has achieved excellence because of great leaders, but good leaders need an environment and a structure that supports them. They need a governance structure that enables visionary planning as well as bold action.”
Flow continues, “We must look at the selection process. If it is not depoliticized, the UNC system will be significantly and permanently diminished.”
Former Board of Governors Chair Lou Bissette said, “This is a diverse state, but we do not have a diverse board. Of the board’s 24 members today, only two live west of Charlotte,” and Lou is very sensitive about that coming from Asheville. Only three are persons of color. Only five are women and only one Democrat. And that simply is not representative of our state.
Former Governor Jim Martin said that just as we need diversity of thought among professors, we also need diversity on the governing board. Governor Martin proposed that we again adopt a law and that is a law that would require minority party representation on governing boards.
And as Senator Burr and Erskine Bowles stated, we should debate among all of us how to improve the makeup of the board, overseeing the UNC schools, ensuring bipartisan representation, which should be a good first step towards fostering stability.
Bissette and others had authority for appointing board members should be distributed more broadly. In the past, including the governor, most folks thought it was healthy.
Bissette and Belle Wheelan, who you’ll hear from in a minute and Chancellor Moeser already introduced, Belle Wheelan the President and CEO of the agency that accredits all 16 UNC institutions both pointed out that a board member’s duties is to the institution that it represents. It’s not to the institution that appoints its members and no micromanagement.
Wheelan, Flow and former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl said board members are to shape policy. They’re not there to manage day to day operations. When a board intervenes in management, it drives away executive talent, and we all know that, Don Flow was quoted to say that, “any board that engages in operational details will always undermine the president.” Again, something we all know.
Our goal here is to elevate the discussion of governance. The best outcome we could have would be for a commission to study these proposals and others and make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature.
Hugh McColl said recently, “it is time for state leaders to step in and improve a governance situation that has become fundamentally unsustainable.”
Thank you, it’s a pleasure being here today.
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