UNC board addresses budget cuts, Davis firing

CHAPEL HILL UNC System President Tom Ross and Board of Governor Chair Hannah Gage spent most of the meeting talking about how the $1 billion in cuts over the past five years has taken its toll.

The chatter comes just as hundreds of thousands of students return to campuses statewide next week.

With the burden of $414 million dollars in state cuts this year, UNC leaders warned that students may notice a few changes like some classes and degree programs eliminated - which could add up more time students are in school.

"Because the sections won't be there to get the course that they need at a particular time, so we're juggling," Gage said.

A juggling act that's also going on during a rocky economy.

Ross added that tight budgets have already forced Eastern Carolina University to slash nearly 200 jobs.

Another sign of trouble is Western Carolina University's credit watch ranking being downgraded from stable. UNC leaders say they are checking on the economic health of its other schools, but do not anticipate any other downgrades.

Still, the impact is being felt elsewhere. Teachers lured away by higher paying jobs, have stretch resources to their limit.

"So it's beginning to have an impact," Ross said. "We have small fund of faculty retention fund, it's been exhausted."

Ross and Gage also addressed UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp's recent decision to fire head football coach Butch Davis.

They say they support Thorp's leadership after he spoke to the board Thursday about issues related to the NCAA investigation into Chapel Hill's football program.

    "We are well aware that there are some alumni and other friends of UNC-Chapel Hill who strongly support the decision to make a coaching change, some who vehemently oppose it, and others who support the decision, but not its timing. We also know that making difficult and unpopular decisions comes with the job of being a university chancellor, and that Chancellor Thorp is committed to doing everything possible to maintain both academic integrity and athletic success at Carolina," Ross and Gage said in a joint statement Friday. "We are confident the two can co-exist. We are also confident that the many positive initiatives and innovations being carried out under his leadership will ensure that UNC-Chapel Hill remains one of America's premier public universities."

In the meantime, Chancellor Thorp has said UNC will wait to respond to NCAA allegations of academic misconduct and accusations that football players got perks from professional sports agents.

The deadline for UNC to respond to the NCAA allegations is September 19.

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