by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
The Pope Center for Higher Education Policy takes the UNC System to task for its continued secrecy in seeking chancellors for system universities, the most recently being the process that led to its selection of William Woodson to lead NC State University. As Jay Schalin writes,
North Carolina is the last state higher education system in the country to keep the chancellor selection process completely secret, according to a 2008 Fayetteville Observer study. Most states make the finalists for a chancellor position public before the final decision is made. This openness permits the media and public to dig into the candidates’ records beyond the resumes, personal recommendations, and press releases that tend to be entirely favorable. This public vetting can turn up problems that are either missed in the search process or swept under the rug.
The state has seen enough unsavory things swept under the rug in recent years. It has been burned by the closed-door dealings on Jones Street and, with the Mary Easley job scandal, on Hillsborough Street as well. The people are clamoring for their right to know in everything, and rightfully so.
UNC’s selection found occasion to joke:
And does he really “get it,” as BOG president Hannah Gage said? Does Woodson really understand the mood of the citizens of North Carolina, who have had more than a bellyful of the corruption in the last few years, when in his first introduction to the state, he joked that “the only problem with tainted money, is that there tain’t enough of it?” It was funny and folksy and charming, and he made it in reference to private industry’s funding of university research. But North Carolina is a state where the former head of the assembly House is in jail for accepting a satchel full of bribe money, and his predecessor as chancellor was rightfully thrown out of the job because of his part in the creation of a sweetheart sinecure for the former governor’s wife.
Such cluelessness and off-handed arrogance do not bode well for Woodson’s future decision-making. It is definitely not the perspective the job calls for. It suggests that he might “get” what the community of academics at N.C. State wants, that he might get what the insulated general administrators in Chapel Hill want, and that he might get what the coterie of politicians who make the decisions on Jones Street want. But that is not enough, not after State’s recent problems. His first appearance did not suggest somebody who is going to serve the best interests of the state and the university by confronting the sense of privilege that permeates academia, but rather one who is perfectly comfortable with the very attitudes that caused State’s ethical difficulties in the first place.
Aside: I wonder if Woodson knows that the last time someone in UNC said something about tainted money and wasn’t joking, it was in reference to a grant because the donor was conservative.