In this third of five posts, I’ll look at one more force faced by public universities, as described by Hunter Rawlings during his recent talk at Carolina. Rawlings is president of the American Association of Universities.
The third force mentioned by Rawlings is the tension between systems and flagships. In some states, this tension has caused friction between system governing boards and flagship presidents that has led to turnover. Rawlings cited Illinois, Oregon, and Wisconsin as examples.
When I first went to work for Erskine Bowles, he made it clear that the system chancellors had to work together as a team, and President Ross has promoted that atmosphere as well. I truly value my relationships with my sixteen brothers and sisters in the system and consider them my closest professional colleagues. I believe they would say the same.
Last year, when we had the very large budget cut, Carolina took a larger share of the cut to help out some of the smaller campuses in the system. We passed this cut to the School of Medicine, which was able to use clinical income to offset the reduction. Over time, we’ll repair that shortfall, but I believed then and still do that it was the right thing to do. A crippling cut to one of the small campuses in the system would have been detrimental to all of us in the long run.
As with all these areas, there are ways that Carolina and the system can work together better in the future. In particular, it’s a challenge to keep clear the roles of the campus board of trustees and the system president and the board of governors. The BOT is closer to the issues on the campus, but the system president and the BOG have much of the formal authority. I believe that it would be better for the BOG to delegate more to the campus boards because the campus boards are more aware of the issues on the campuses. In exchange, the chancellor and BOT would vow to be good partners with the system in the way we were in the summer of 2011. The counter-argument is that the BOG can think more holistically about the needs of the entire state and system, and I understand that. This discussion has been ongoing since Bill Friday first set up the two-board arrangement decades ago, and it will continue long into the future.
I plan to post more next week.