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.