Former UNC BOG Chairman Harry Smith has resigned from the Board of Governors effective February 1. Notably, his resignation follows his abrupt ceding of the BOG chairmanship just over a month ago, with the explanation that he was “really tired.” His tenure has been marked by perennial controversy ranging from allegedly forcing out an ECU chancellor to texting and emailing former UNC System President Margaret Spellings “20 times a day.”
Yet the circumstances of his resignation may raise eyebrows for people who have been following North Carolina higher education news. Smith’s resignation came just hours after it was reported that Tom Shanahan, the top lawyer for the UNC System, sent two cease and desist letters to Peter Romary, an attorney who had allegedly represented himself as a lawyer for the UNC System. Romary is a private attorney who had worked for at least two members of the Board of Governors (Harry Smith and Tom Fetzer) and obtained copies of surveillance footage from Greenville of former Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach “walking unsteadily to his car, getting in and driving away.”
Moreover, Smith had been in the headlines for confirming rumors that House Speaker Tim Moore was interested in the job of UNC System President. Even as other board members demurred.
Smith’s connection (if any) to the ongoing turmoil at ECU is not yet known. However, the possibility of Harry Smith meddling in the affairs of an ECU chancellor has precedent. It is clear that the board needs new leadership from someone who is going to prioritize students rather than profits.