UNC system defends big raises for chancellors, secrecy of vote

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – The UNC Board of Governors Met in closed session Friday and approved salary increases for 12 of the University’s 17 chancellors.

The salary information was released Monday morning following Friday’s closed session meeting, where questions were raised by media law attorney Mike Tadych that the move appeared to be a violation of the public records law.

Some faculty members at the universities are also raising concerns about the pay hikes.

N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson got a 13.46 percent raise and UNC Chancellor Carol Folt got a 9.62 percent raise. Woodson’s salary went from $520,000 to $590,000 and Folt’s went from $520,000 to $570,000.

NCCU Central Chancellor Debra Saunders-White had her salary raised from $285,000 to $330,000.

The highest salary increase was 19.43 percent, which was given to UNC-Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois and Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher. Dubois went from $324,450 to $387,500. Belcher went from $280,500 to $335,000.

“The Board of Governors has gone off the rails, and then they’ve gone off the rails farther,” said UNC-Chapel Hill professor Altha Cravey, who’s a member of the advocacy group Faculty Forward. “This is obscene. These kinds of raises are obscene.”

The decision came after the General Assembly voted to give employees and faculty a $750 one-time bonus but did not authorize pay raises.

Cravey says she’s concerned about the impact the decision is having on employee morale and the ability of the university system to attract top professors going forward. She says some of her colleagues have had to make tough financial choices.

“Whether to buy health care for themselves or for their children, or whether to buy food,” said Cravey.

Attorney Mike Tadych said the moves continue a trend of a lack of transparency by the board.

“There’s no secret that UNC, in Chapel Hill, and UNC in general has been under fire for its lack of transparency. This is just more fuel to that fire.”

Tadych said the board is able to discuss the changes in closed session but the votes should be in open session.

But Lou Bissette Jr., the interim chair of the Board of Governors, said, “We listen to the advice of our attorney. We did that. We believe that what we did, the way it was done, was lawful.”

Bissette said the system wants to make sure it pays top chancellors what it needs to pay them to retain them.

“The Board of Governors believes that our chancellors are really the backbone of the system,” he said. “We expect to have the very best system of higher education in the country, and in order to do that, you have to have the very best individuals running those campuses.”

And Joni Worthington, a spokeswoman for the system, said, “Our legal counsel does not believe that the Open Meetings Act supports the opinion that all actions taken by a public body must be taken in open session.

“To the contrary, the Act lists numerous actions that public bodies may take in closed session, including the establishment of compensation. The Act specifically describes those items that may be discussed in closed session, but where the final action must be taken in open session. …

“In addition, we are mindful that state law requires us to keep employee personnel information confidential, with certain exceptions. Although employers may release information on current salary and prior salary changes, we do not think that information about salaries that have been authorized by not yet administratively implemented or even communicated to employees can be considered current.”

 

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