Chancellor Randy Woodson’s been busy.
During his first 100 days as chancellor, Randy Woodson has replaced former Athletics Director Lee Fowler, restructured the University hierarchy, and raised tuition in response to $20 million in state budget cuts.
Woodson, and his employees, feel his first 100 days have been productive, but not all his decisions have been met with approval.
Athletics director situation a ‘real challenge’
Within the first month, Woodson handled major upheaval in the Department of Athletics, forcing Lee Fowler to step down to make room for new Athletics Director Debbie Yow.
“The departure of one athletics director and the hiring of another one was a real challenge to work through,” Woodson said. “Lee Fowler had done very well in a lot of areas, but we needed to get better at winning and graduating students.”
On June 25, Woodson selected Yow because of her record at the University of Maryland. She won 20 national championships in 16 years at Maryland.
“From my vantage point, [Yow] was a very good hire, I think people are energized by the strength and experience she brings to the job,” Woodson said.
Board of Trustees member Bob Jordan said the chancellor showed his true character in his handling of the athletics director situation.
“The Debbie Yow hiring was indicative of how he does things. He went after a person with experience, a proven athletics director who could come in and hit the ground running,” Jordan said. “He made it clear that he made the choice. I admire the chancellor for that; just stepping up in that situation shows that he trusts himself and his own decisions.”
Thomas Stafford, vice chancellor for student affairs, called the hire Woodson’s top accomplishment so far.
“There was a lot of division among N.C. State supporters on that issue, but I think he has hired an extraordinary new athletics director. Debbie Yow is going to lead us into a very, very positive future,” Stafford said.
Tuition hike causing some unrest
Since his arrival, Woodson says he has spent time representing the University in the North Carolina General Assembly.
“Getting to know key members of the General Assembly, and making sure N.C. State was well-represented, was one of my top priorities,” said Woodson.
Stafford said he was impressed by the way Woodson got involved with law makers.
“He worked very hard over the summer to represent N.C. State in the General Assembly, and tried to minimize the budget cuts for students, when possible,” Stafford said.
But facing a revenue shortfall, lawmakers imposed $70 million cuts on the UNC system, with N.C. State bearing $20 million of that burden. Erskine Bowles, president of the UNC system, dealt with this by increasing tuition $750, in addition to a $150 hike approved in February.
There is still frustration with the 19 percent tuition increase, which was announced a day ahead of the fall semester billing period. Woodson said he has heard from some irked students and parents about the increase and timing.
“I’ve gotten some calls and messages. One caller said the state should save money by firing me,” Woodson said. “It’s not the way any of us would want it to happen. Usually with tuition increases there is notice and open dialogue with students and parents. Unfortunately, this situation took all of this out of the equation. I didn’t come here to raise tuition. But one of the things we do have to recognize is that the UNC support system is struggling. The state is struggling to be the primary source of revenue for the University.”
Some students who have gotten to know him accept Woodson’s line of reasoning. Student Government Deputy Chief of Staff appointee Phillip Christofferson, a junior in political science, said he feels that Woodson has done a fantastic job in his first 100 days. He said the tuition increase does not affect his opinion of the chancellor’s performance.
Ethan Bartlett, a sophomore in management and chief of staff for Student Government, agrees.
“I don’t speak alone when I say that our tuition increase is undesired,” said Bartlett. “However, the University has taken great measures to see that all students are not caught off guard by the increase.”
But Amanda Egan, a junior in mathematics education, does not like the way the tuition increase has been handled.
“I’m out of state, so my tuition is already really high. I love this school, and I love being here, but raising tuition. . . . That money could have gone to better use,” Egan said.
Kaitlyn Oppenheim, a sophomore in general engineering, agrees with Egan’s view of the tuition increase.
“I’m out of state already, and tuition is very pricey as it is. Tuition is almost four times as much as [for] in-state students. I really feel like they’re using all their money to do things that aren’t necessary to better the school,” Oppenheim said. “I feel like the facilities we have right now are plenty adequate to fulfill their need and what their meant for.”
To minimize any future increases, Woodson said he will be working with donors to increase the University’s endowment, which is among the smallest nationally for a school N.C. State’s size.
“I’m out there trying to support every means I can to keep tuition low,” Woodson said.
Provost, strategic plan on the horizon
Woodson said he will soon name a permanent provost to replace interim Provost Warwick A. Arden, who he said has done a great job.
The permanent hire will take over a restructured hierarchy, where Stafford will report directly to the provost rather than the chancellor. Effective July 1, Stafford serves under Provost Arden, meaning all student affairs issues go through the provost before reaching the chancellor.
Woodson made the change to bring academics and student affairs under the same umbrella Stafford said.
“The chancellor wanted to make this change to bring the divisions of student affairs and academic affairs into better alignment. He thought it would benefit students, and so do I,” Stafford said. “There will be some very positive outcomes for students as a result of this.”
A national search for the provost is under way, but the provost won’t be in place until after the fall semester starts, because Woodson said he asked student leaders and faculty for their input.
“I promised student leaders and faculty that we would not interview people for the provost position until the fall, so we could get their input,” Woodson said.
Woodson hopes to get student feedback on all decisions that affect the University.
“I want very much to be connected to students to see what their needs are. I expect student voice to be strong on issues regarding how this University is run,” Woodson said.
The chancellor will also seek students and faculty help in formulating a strategic vision for the University. Stafford said that planning committee meetings have already begun, and the goal is to submit a strategic plan to the Board of Trustees in the spring.
“We need to come up with a vision for the University. I think we all need a common goal for N.C. State, so that everyone understands where the school is headed,” Woodson said.
Kelly Hook, student body president, has high hopes for the strategic plan, and for Woodson.
“[Woodson] will have to ensure that the plan is carried out. We need to truly analyze our costs and benefits and recognize where to spend a limited budget in order to ensure student and faculty success,” Hook said.