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The Daily Tar Heel

Student BOG Rep One Step Closer To Voting Power

About 10 students, including UNC Association of Student Governments President Andrew Payne, listened to the committee debate the bill, which will now go before the Rules and Calendar Committee and then on to the full House. The house committee must determine if the proposed bill is properly written and then schedule its introduction on the House floor.

Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, vice chairman of the rules committee, said he believes that the bill will not die in the rules committee. The bill also must be approved in the N.C. Senate and signed by Gov. Mike Easley before it becomes law.

The bill's safe passage through the committee is a major victory for student leaders, who have been lobbying for a BOG vote for years. A similar bill died in a Senate committee in 1999.

About 40 legislators took part in the committee meeting, debating the merits of the bill and how it would impact the BOG.

Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, who sponsored the bill, told committee members the bill would allow students fair representation on the board. "It would restore meaningful participation to the student member of the Board of Governors," Adams said.

She said student body presidents at each UNC-system school already receives voting privileges on their respective boards of trustees. Adams argued this privilege should be extended to the lone student member on the BOG.

But some committee members said the student sits on the board for only one year -- not enough time to get a grasp on the issues the board considers.

And Rep. Gregory Thompson, R-Catawba, said allowing the student member to vote is unfair to the rest of the BOG. "This is a slap in the face to those who work hard to get elected," he said.

The BOG sets policy for the UNC system, as well as approving tuition and student fee increases.

Rep. Phillip Haire, D-Graham, said he opposes the student vote because the student population changes every year -- meaning that student priorities might shift frequently.

But other committee members countered that an extra vote on the board would not change the direction of the BOG and said their fellow committee members' concerns are invalid.

There are currently 32 voting members on the board, all of whom were elected by either the state House or Senate.

Rep. Maggie Jeffus, D-Guilford, vice chairwoman of the education committee, said student leaders are highly capable. "These student leaders did not get where they are overnight," she said.

After the meeting concluded, Rep. Donald Bonner, D-Hoke, co-chairman of the committee, said he supports the bill but would not speculate if it will pass the House.

Payne, who is running for another term as ASG president, said he is optimistic about Tuesday's meeting and that he believes the bill will pass. "With support from the committee, we should have the same success in the House."

If the bill is approved this summer, Payne or his successor will be able to vote on the BOG. "Today's results were awesome because we've been working 10 years for this."

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The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for November 20, 2023