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The University of North Carolina's Board of Governors announced Friday that Thomas G. Ross would leave his job as the system's president early next year, and its failure to explain the reasons for Ross's departure prompted assertions that he was forced out. Ross was appointed president in 2010, just as Republicans first began making significant gains in North Carolina's traditionally Democratically controlled legislature. When Republicans took control of both houses of the legislature in 2012, the university -- and Ross as its leader -- faced intense scrutiny from lawmakers who believed UNC had been treated with kid gloves by Democratic politicians.

In the last year, he appeared to have weathered the political pressure and to have begun to persuade the new Republican majority of UNC's importance to the state economy, even as a series of controversies buffeted the university. The joint statement from the university and Ross said that his departure had nothing to do with his performance, but board leaders insisted that it had nothing to do with politics, either.