UNC Governors Say Chancellors Shouldn’t Vote to Boycott Own State

(Paul Chesser, Liberty Headlines) At least four members of the University of North Carolina System’s Board of Governors are calling upon the chancellors of UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University to oppose further boycotts of the state by the Atlantic Coast Conference because of House Bill 2 (the “transgender bathroom bill”).

UNC Governors Say Votes by Chancellors of UNC, NCSU Should Be Public

Carol Folt and Randy Woodson

And, they added, if the members of the ACC Council of Presidents do vote to keep athletic championships out of the state again for the upcoming academic year, those governors say UNC-CH’s Carol Folt and NC State’s Randy Woodson should demand that the record of their votes on the matter be public, not hidden in secret as they were during their previous vote in September 2016.

If comments by Commissioner John Swofford in January and the bylaws (page 25) of the Atlantic Coast Conference are in force, then the university member presidents and chancellors of the league could vote again this week on whether or not to hold championships in North Carolina for the 2017-2018 academic year.

“They should first object to any sort of boycott or economic sanctions,” said Marty Kotis, a member of the Board of Governors from Greensboro. “Object to any private or secret closed door vote. And refuse to participate if the vote is going to be private. If the vote is public, they should vote no.”

“This isn’t about HB2 or any other issue,” Kotis continued. “It’s a stance against ‘calling in airstrikes on your own position and people.’ And if votes are taken, they should be public and discussed openly. We either believe in transparency or we don’t.”

Kotis’s comments, which answered an emailed inquiry by Liberty Headlines to the entire Board of Governors, were endorsed by fellow members Thom Goolsby (who is a former state Senator), former Judge William Webb, and C. Philip Byers.

The top officials at each member university in the ACC — including Folt and Woodson – voted in secret last September to move all sports championships that had been scheduled in the Tar Heel State, to other states. They blamed their decision on NC lawmakers’ passage of House Bill 2, which overturned a Charlotte ordinance by requiring that users of public restrooms and dressing facilities do so according to the sex they are identified by on their birth certificates. The move by the ACC presidents was designed to punish North Carolina for its allegedly “discriminatory” law.

“As members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC Council of Presidents reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination…,” the conference said in a statement at the time. “We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral site championships for the 2016-17 academic year.”

Swofford told the Associated Press in January that the ACC Council of Presidents would not wait again until September – when the school year has already started – to vote on the locations of the 2017-2018 sports championships. ACC bylaws state that the board is to meet twice every year: In September, and during the annual basketball championship held in March, alternating each year between the men’s and women’s title tournament. The women’s tournament for 2017 has already been held and the men’s tournament is this week in New York.

Swofford said the ACC is likely to move its football championship out of Charlotte again this year if HB2 is not repealed or significantly altered.

“If something changes in the state of North Carolina that would be welcome,” Swofford told the AP. “Our presidents made what they believe is a principled decision in that regard as to where our championships should be held and shouldn’t. I don’t see that principle changing.”

In an interview with the ACC Digital Network, Swofford said the league was “doing some homework” ahead of possible removal of championships from North Carolina this upcoming academic year. He said the decision about the 2017-2018 would be made “this spring.”

Fred Hartman, executive director of university relations for NC State, said Woodson was “in New York at the ACC Tournament,” after Liberty Headlines inquired whether a vote would take place this week, and whether it would be in secret. He said all questions about the proceedings of the Council of Presidents should be directed to the ACC.

A similar inquiry to the NC State Board of Trustees yielded the following response from Chairman Jim Owens:

The Board of Trustees delegates the authority of Athletics to the Chancellor. On behalf of the North Carolina State University Board of Trustees, we have full confidence in Chancellor Woodson, including in his role on the ACC Council of Presidents. Any questions about ACC meetings should be directed to Commissioner John Swofford’s office.

Echoing that sentiment, UNC Board of Governors member Joe Knott expressed trust in Woodson’s judgment:

  1. When our institutions have to deal with outside organizations which we do not control, we empower our Chancellors to represent their respective institutions. Put your best person in charge and let them do the job is the principle. Talented individuals usually accomplish more in private negotiations than in the chaos of a town hall atmosphere. To handcuff our Chancellors is to deprive the State of North Carolina the full benefit of their talent and expertise—think Dr. Randy Woodson. I would rather have a highly talented professional doing his best, even if it involves some private negotiations, bargaining and votes, than management by any committee of part-timers I have ever known.
  2. The Chancellors work for the President of the University. They are responsible to her not to us. If the President is unhappy with, or does not trust her Chancellors, it is her responsibility to correct their performance or replace them. For the Board to pass “rules” telling the Chancellors how to conduct negotiations, is not only to undercut the Chancellors’ effectiveness but also to usurp the President’s role.
  3. And finally, to ask our Chancellors to renege on agreements previously made in good faith and relied upon by others is not honorable or reasonable. Would we want anyone leading one of our schools who would do that? I think not. Character still counts at UNC, or it should. I would respectfully submit, that for us to ask our Chancellors to violate their promise ex post facto is something we should not even consider doing.

Kotis disagreed with Knott:

Secret votes to boycott the State or level economic sanctions fall well outside the general delegation/chain of command concept. The boycott topic doesn’t meet the standards for a closed session item. I think your third point is extremely valid – character and honor do matter. Sunshine, transparency and accountability do as well.

It’s hard for me to see honor when it’s hidden in the shadows.

Neither Chancellor Folt nor Chancellor Woodson, nor any member of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, nor ACC Director of External Relations Amy Yakola, responded to similar emailed inquiries by Liberty Headlines.