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BOG Study Should Hit All Schools

They say the size of the BOG, which governs the entire UNC system, is too large at 32 members and that the selection of its members by the General Assembly is questionable.

They also say the current structure might not be adequately meeting the needs of the UNC system's two flagship universities -- UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State -- and cite UNC-CH's recent slips in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings as proof.

But those leaders have been almost mute in saying how the BOG has met the needs of the UNC system's other 14 campuses and how they will be affected.

The call for the study came as a last-minute addition to a Senate bill outlawing the use of racial and gender quota in determining the body's makeup.

A yet-to-be-named independent group will study the BOG's overall structure and governing power and is expected to reveal its findings to state legislators next summer.

The N.C. House has yet to consider the bill, and it is unclear whether it will before the current session ends.

N.C. Senate Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Dare, has been one of the study's strongest proponents, also using UNC-CH's national rankings as evidence for the study's necessity.

But Basnight hasn't discussed what concerns at other campuses also warrant a study of the BOG's effectiveness in meeting the state's education needs.

The silence should raise some eyebrows considering Basnight's district is home to Elizabeth City State University, which has experienced its own fluctuations in rankings.

But Basnight insisted Wednesday that he and other leaders have always stressed the importance of an effective system for all campuses and not solely UNC-CH and N.C. State. "I think we should work to give better opportunities to all 16 campuses," he said.

Basnight also hinted that the media might have created a false allusion that the study's intent is slanted toward UNC-CH and N.C. State because a lot of the questions asked of him have been primarily about those campuses.

But honestly, it is difficult to believe that in the weeks since the study was proposed, no one has asked how the study could impact other campuses.

Perhaps the media should be more aggressive in asking these questions to present as many sides of a story as possible. But more importantly, legislators, especially those with UNC-system campuses in their districts, should be more vocal and ensure that their constituencies are not neglected.

Another supporter of the study, former UNC-system President Bill Friday told The News & Observer that he also is concerned that UNC-CH's share of the state's education budget has declined over the years. Basnight made the same assertion about N.C. State's College of Engineering.

While it is difficult to not be able to completely meet all campuses' budget requests, the BOG should be fair in dividing the funds it receives.

Under the 2001-02 state budget, UNC-Chapel Hill was allotted just more than $200 million of the entire UNC-system's $1.8 billion budget for the campus' academic programs. In contrast, UNC-Asheville received about $25 million from the budget.

Any shift in funding priorities toward UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State could have other campuses lobbying against each other for the limited public funds just like they did before the UNC system was created in 1971.

Granted, no one argues that UNC-CH and N.C. State, with their top-of-the-line research capabilities, are extremely valuable to both the UNC system and the state itself.

But we must not forget about the successes of the UNC system's other campuses and the challenges that they too must face on a daily basis.

State leaders, both legislators and UNC-system officials, must ensure that the status of all campuses are given equal consideration in the proposed BOG review. This should be vocalized not only in their private conversations with each other but also in interviews given to the press.

If that intent is not made clear early on, it will be hard to fully trust the study's outcome, whatever it might be.

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Columnist April Bethea can be reached at

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