Earlier this month, the N.C. General Assembly passed a law decreasing membership of the Board of Governors from 32 to 24 by 2019.
Staff writer Carina McDermed spoke with Madeline Finnegan, the only student member, about the bill and board representation.
The Daily Tar Heel: How might House Bill 39 affect the representation of the Board of Governors?
Madeline Finnegan: I think I see it in two different lights: One, I think that having a smaller board can lead to each individual voice having more power. I think people will be more inclined to speak up, especially in a big setting when we have the 32 members. So in that respect I think it will be good.
But on the other hand, I think when we decrease the number of people on the board, we could decrease the amount of diversity and representation. We already don’t have a super diverse board, and I worry that this will make positions on the Board of Governors more competitive. Board of Governors members lobby legislators to get a coveted spot on the board — so I worry that it will be more competitive and not to our advantage.
DTH: Is the BOG a separate entity from the General Assembly?
MF: In an ideal place, it’s completely separate from the General Assembly. Of course, the board has to coordinate with the General Assembly about legislative priorities and budget priorities because we get our money from the General Assembly.
But the Board of Governors should be something that operates exclusively for stakeholders in the UNC system, specifically students, faculty members, staff and, on a broader scale, taxpayers. But it should operate with the goal of bettering our universities, not focusing on what the General Assembly would want.
DTH: Do you think one student voice on the board is enough?
MF: No, I don’t think there are enough students on the board. You know, I’m at every board meeting, and I definitely try to make a case for students. I collaborate with student body presidents and people in student governments to formulate our official opinions on things I bring to the board.
But it’s a lot for one student to handle. Additionally, I can reflect the opinions of the students I speak with but at the end of the day, I have only lived my experience.
DTH: Do you think you should have more decision-making authority?
MF: Oh, absolutely. I don’t want to discount the voice that I currently have on the board. I think that when I say something, people listen, and if I ever want to talk I’m allowed to and that’s great. But at the end of the day, I don’t have a vote.
So if there’s a policy being passed in a committee or on the board as a whole, I can speak my disapproval, but I don’t get to vote on it. At the current size of the board — it’s really big — so one vote doesn’t usually change anything.
But even on a symbolic level, I think not being able to vote shows that the student voice isn’t totally valued as much as other members on the board.