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The Daily Tar Heel

N.C. Senate Votes To Repeal Quotas On BOG Members

The UNC-system Board of Governors chose not to challenge a May lawsuit aimed at getting rid of the current quota system.

The N.C. Senate's Education Committee gave a favorable report on a bill earlier in the day. It will now head to the House.

No date has been set for when House debate will begin.

But some members of the Senate fear that eliminating the quotas, which require that a minimum number of seats be given to women and racial and political minorities, will lead to underrepresentation of key interest groups.

Under the present system, 12 of the 32 seats must be given to women and racial and political minorities -- four seats for each.

"Eliminating quotas might preclude, for example, the presence of Republicans on the BOG," said Sen. John Garwood, R-Alexander, a member of the committee.

Garwood's concerns stem from the nature of the BOG appointment process. Members serve staggered four-year terms, with new members appointed on odd-numbered years.

The proposed bill states members should be selected based on a knowledge of the needs of students with respect to their "economic, geographic, political, racial, sexual and ethnic diversity."

The bill was introduced in response to a lawsuit filed May 30 by former BOG member Walter Davis that aimed to eliminate the mandatory quotas for board seats.

But Sen. Jeanne Lucas, D-Durham, co-chairwoman of the committee, said the language of the new bill encourages legislators to keep the interests of minorities in mind. "People in the House and Senate will have to be diligent about making sure representation is geographically, politically and racially minded."

The legislation was introduced in the General Assembly after the BOG chose not to challenge the lawsuit.

"Legal counselors said that the case would be very hard to defend," Lucas said. "Federal laws regarding quotas support the idea that the system we have in place now is unconstitutional."

According to the bill, all 32 seats will be classified as "at large," open to anyone "qualified by training and experience to administer the affairs of the University of North Carolina."

Sen. Howard Lee, D-Orange, said he thinks the bill is a step in the right direction. "I feel that it's time to revisit and re-examine all aspects of the university system, but focusing on this right now is targeting an important issue."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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