State senate promotes NCCU trustee Darrell Allison to UNC system Board of Governors

One of N.C. Central University’s trustees is getting a promotion, and will be joining the UNC system’s Board of Governors as of Monday.

NCCU and UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law alumnus Darrell Allison will fill the board seat that’s been vacant since former board chair John Fennebresque resigned in late October 2015. He will serve the remaining two years of Fennebresque’s term.

Allison owes his seat to the N.C. Senate, which voted 46-0 on Thursday to put him on the board that sets policy for the 17-campus public university system.

“Darrell is one of those people who is generally well-regarded and respected even though he may be someone I have disagreements with from time to time,” said state Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, who voted for the appointment. “He brings in an appreciation of some of the challenges facing public education, our universities, today. And I know he’s indicated he’s very concerned about affordability, college affordability. He’s one of those people who depended on scholarships and loans to attend university himself. And he only paid them off last year.”

The new board member, meanwhile, said he’s “honored that state leaders have entrusted me with this responsibility.”

Allison has been N.C. Central trustee since 2015, securing the position via an appointment from the system board. He will be giving up his trustee’s post as of Monday, as state law says no one can serve on the system board and a campus one at the same time.

As McKissick’s comments alluded, Allison is well-known in North Carolina political circles, most prominently as an advocate for the state’s charter-school movement. He is president and founder of the group Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.

Since joining the NCCU trustees, he’s generally supported the campus administration’s initiatives and policies. That included its 2015 move to require freshmen and most sophomores to live on campus, and its recent request to back off on sophomore residency because of dorm-space limits.

Thursday’s appointment makes him one of two N.C. Central alums on the system board. The other, Michael Williford, earned a law degree on the Durham campus to go with his bachelor’s from UNC-Chapel Hill.

“I’m just delighted we’ve got somebody on the board from N.C. Central,” said state Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, who had an excused absence from Thursday’s Senate meeting. “I belive he understands the historic and important place [historically black colleges and universities] have in our system and understands their needs. He’d be a good addition to the board.”

Woodard added that he’d have voted in favor of the appointment because Allison has “an understanding and background in education” that isn’t always a factor when legislators decide who should get Board of Governors seats.

Fennebresque’s resignation in the fall of 2015 essentially made the former chairman the board’s fall guy for the controversial ouster early that year of former system President Tom Ross, and for the messy end of the search process for Ross’ replacement, Margaret Spellings.

One board member, Joe Knott, later attributed the late-blooming controversy over the search process to Fennebresque’s refusal to “grant a special favor” to a legislator who had a preferred candidate for the system presidency.

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648, @rcgronberg