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UNC-system Board of Governors’ new members spark outcry from Democrats

New members spark outcry from Democrats

The announcement of 16 new members to the UNC-system Board of Governors is causing an outcry from Democrats in the N.C. General Assembly.

Some Democratic legislators believe Republicans stacked the board with white males who support the Republican party.

The board is the overarching policy-making body for all 17 institutions in the UNC system. Political party does not play a role on the board, but members have historically favored the Democratic party, and legislators have made a concerted effort to appoint women and minorities in the past.

The N.C. House’s committee on University Board of Governors presented its nominations for the board on Tuesday, but the number of nominations fell short of Democrats’ expectations.

The nominations lacked in both diversity and numbers, said Rep. Larry Bell, D-Sampson.

Instead of the 16 nominations that were supposed to be submitted, there were only nine, he said.

The other seven nominees withdrew their names before the vote, said Rep. William Current, R-Gaston.

Neither Bell nor Current knew why the names were withdrawn.

Bell said the number of nominees coupled with the lack of diversity caused many Democrats to refrain from voting.

They turned in blank ballots instead.

“I did not vote for anyone,” Bell said. “We felt it should have been more open and have more diversity.”

In all, 13 white men and two white women were elected.

Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the board, said she didn’t know why names were withdrawn, but it’s possible the nominees were offered the opportunity to step down by Republicans in the House because they were not going to be elected.

“When I ran I knew I didn’t have a chance but went through the process,” said Current, who ran for the board in the 1970s.

Gage said Clarice Goodyear, a current board member and the only nominee presented to the House that was not selected, chose not to step down.

“She is a fighter,” Gage said. “She decided she wanted to go down fighting.”

Goodyear declined to comment.

Both legislative bodies of the N.C. General Assembly each selected eight members to serve on the 32-member board beginning in August.

“On the surface it is mostly white male and Republican, and that is a change, but it may not translate into the policy as much as some have predicted,” Gage said.

“The charge on the women and minority members on the board will now be to speak more loudly.”

Gage said she does not expect the new board members to be incompatible with the direction of the board.

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“My job is not to judge the legislators on who they appoint, but to fold this into one group and keep on moving,” she said.

“We have much bigger challenges than figuring out who is Republican and Democrat.”

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