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If GPSF splits, Board of Trustees representation is uncertain

According to N.C. law, each UNC-system school is allowed to have 13 representatives on its Board of Trustees, one of whom should be the president of the student government.

In today’s campus elections, students can vote on whether graduate students should start a separate governing body or the student constitution should be revised while keeping the government together. Students can also vote for neither plan.

If separation occurs, the student body president will only represent undergraduate constituents on the board, potentially leaving graduate students without representation unless a second position is created to represent them.

Trustee Charles Duckett said the Board of Governors would decide whether to add a seat — something he said he thought unlikely.

Elliot Engstrom, lead counsel for the Center for Law and Freedom at the Civitas Institute, a right-leaning think tank in Raleigh, said to his knowledge, the BOG has no power to amend or enact laws, and this power lies with the General Assembly.

Engstrom said if the General Assembly does not create an additional seat for GPSF, their best argument would be to ask for an equal protection claim using the examples of UNC School of the Arts and the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics — two system schools that have more than 13 representatives on their boards.

“But such a lawsuit would be a steep uphill battle, and it is extremely unlikely that the Federation would prevail,” Engstrom said.

David Parker, UNC’s general counsel, said that the Board of Trustees is required, by law, to include eight members elected by the Board of Governors, four appointed by the governor and one who has been elected student body president, so changing that would be slow and complicated.

Dylan Russell, president of the GPSF, said if the student body president no longer represents the whole student population, graduate students would need their own seat to keep things fair.

Russell also cited the cases of UNC School of the Arts and the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics.

He argued that UNC-CH is a unique case because it has the largest graduate and professional student population in the UNC system.

Houston Summers, student body president, said he wants every student to be able to hold their student representative on the board accountable.

“I think the process has been simplified so much that it sounds like a good argument when it’s worthless speculation and largely unfounded speculation,” Summers said.

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