In a surprise move, Tom Ross has announced that he will resign as president of the University of North Carolina system. It’s unclear why the system’s Board of Governors forced out Ross, and some see a political motive behind the change.
Reading the online coverage of this big news, I noticed that many readers are confused about Ross’ role. In the comments sections on news sites, they blamed Ross for the academic scandal at UNC-Chapel Hill, even though the fake classes at issue had ended by the time he took office. Readers also criticized him for the expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference, including the addition of the University of Miami. That, too, took place before Ross led the UNC system.
Many comments focused on the Chapel Hill campus, implying that Ross is its leader. That university is led by Chancellor Carol Folt.
This confusion presents an opportunity for editors and reporters to define the role of UNC’s president. As coverage continues, why not include a textbox that provides a job description for the position? Describe how the UNC president oversees 17 campuses, not one. What role, if any, does the president have in athletics, including conference affiliations?
It’s possible that some of the readers’ ignorance is willful. Trolls will be trolls. But many people may simply not understand how a complicated university system is governed. They’d like to know how it works. Here’s our chance to tell them.