State News

UNC system president formally takes office

Posted October 6, 2011 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated October 6, 2011 7:12 p.m. EDT

— Taking the oath of office as the newest president of the University of North Carolina system Thursday, President Tom Ross was candid as he talked about the challenges he faces in the wake of tough economic times.

Now it a critical time for the system in helping move the state forward economically, he said, and the UNC system will have to be adaptable as it continues to deal with budget cuts of more than $600 million in the past four years and a down economy that has hurt students' family finances.

"We cannot know for certain what tomorrow holds for our university or state, but we can help shape our tomorrow by what we do in our time," he told those in attendance of his inauguration at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro.

"It will take sacrifice, planning and hard work to create the future we need and the future we want. I want each of you to know I am committed to the fight," he said

Ross, who started as president in January, has already had to deal with $400 million in budget cuts. He said now is a defining point for the system, stressing quality has to preserved while keeping tuition low and affordable.

That means looking for inefficient programs to cut, increasing online classes and exploring ways to raise more private money, he said.

"We must seize our time. We must remake our great university, a greater university for tomorrow."

Ross has said he is a firm believer that states that don't weaken their educational systems will come out winners in the economy and that the university system's duty to provide quality education, no matter the economic situation.

”We are in an economic and social malaise, and fear that we may never come out of it. We have heard the rules of the new normal so often we sometimes believe that where we are right now is where we will stay," he said. "I don’t buy it. It doesn’t have to be that way. This is our time and what we do with it is up to us."

Ross has also been faced with the task of balancing athletics and academics amid an NCAA investigation of possible academic misconduct by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill football program.

He formed a task force that talks about issues including making sure players and academic tutors follow the rules to how schools admit athletes who don't qualify academically.

Ross is a graduate of Davidson College and the UNC-Chapel Hill law school.