With the terms of 16 UNC-system Board of Governors’ members ending this year, Republican legislators might use this opportunity to flip the Democrat-leaning board in their favor.
Although the board itself is non-partisan, members make significant contributions to the Democratic Party. And since the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly is responsible for the selection of board members, the demographics of the board could change.
BOG donations to the N.C. Democratic Party in 2009-2010
John Blackburn: $500 not up for re-election
Paul Fulton: $1,000 not up for re-election
Ronald Leatherwood: $250 up for re-election
Fred Mills: $1,500 not up for re-election
Burly Mitchell: $2,000 not up for re-election
“There has been a lot of change in the General Assembly so a lot of people that supported a member is no longer there,” said board member Phil Dixon, whose term continues through 2013.
“They have every right to appoint new people,” he said.
Dixon said it makes sense for Republicans in the state legislature to want to appoint people who share the same views as them.
“We don’t get into much of partisanship with the board but definitely a possibility that no Democrats will be appointed,” he said.
Board member Steve Bowden, whose term ends this year, said that during the eight years he has served, the board has not acted in a partisan way.
“If it gets to where people on the board … make decisions because of politics, the University is going to suffer,” he said.
Dixon said political parties do not play a big role once members are on the board — only when they are trying to get selected.
“It could be important for nominees to make themselves known to the legislators,” said board member John Davis, whose term is also up this year.
Anyone interested in becoming a member of the board submits an application to the N.C. House or Senate committees for UNC Board of Governors nominations, said House Rep. Phillip Haire, D-Haywood.
Today is the last day to submit an application to the committees.
Haire said the committees will then select nominees to present to each legislative body.
Both the House and Senate will select eight people each to serve on the board, he said.
There was once a requirement for a political, racial and gender mix among members of the board, but not anymore, Haire said.
But now it all comes down to politics, he said.
The political party of an applicant sometimes plays a role but not always, he said.
“The last couple of sessions in the General Assembly, persons elected from the House have been of different political parties,” Haire said.
He said when Democrats have been in the majority, Republicans have been selected to serve on the board.
“It is just up to the will of the body,” said Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston.
Haire said he thinks it is important for a potential board member to have previous experience in governmental affairs along with interest and experience in higher education.
“I really want to see folks that have shown a commitment and interest in the University system and allow them to bring something useful to the table,” said Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland.
“We are going to review each person individually and try to pick eight people that represent the state and will be qualified and committed to serving the university (system),” said Moore, who is also the chairman for the House’s selection committee for board members.
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