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Monday December 6th

Cooper signs bill to reduce the size of UNC Board of Governors

<p>N.C. Governor Roy Cooper looks on at the UNC-Duke game.&nbsp;</p>
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N.C. Governor Roy Cooper looks on at the UNC-Duke game. 

The law will reduce the number of UNC-system Board of Governors members from 32 to 24 by 2019. The N.C. General Assembly will elect 12 members during this year’s regular legislative session, who will join the previously elected 16 members.

The bill passed with bipartisan support in the General Assembly.

N.C. Speaker of the House Tim Moore, a former member of the board, said in a statement that streamlining the board will make it more efficient and easier to manage.

“University officials should focus on students and classrooms first, and streamlining the UNC Board of Governors will improve their ability to provide oversight and serve stakeholders in higher education,” he said.

The law continues to allow the presence of a student member of the Board of Governors — currently Madeline Finnegan, president of the Association of Student Governments. But this member will not be granted a vote, as current policy dictates.

Hannah Gage, board member and former board president, said the size of the board has not been a significant problem in a February op-ed for Wilmington’s StarNews Media.

“It can be challenging to lead,” she said. “Herding cats has come to mind at times — but that usually has to do more with individuals, not the size of the body.”

Gage said the real problem is the General Assembly. The piece identified two groups of BOG members: one believing the board is an extension of the General Assembly and the other believing the BOG should act with more autonomy.

She also said the lack of diversity on the board creates a problem that will be exacerbated by smaller numbers.

“There are many good and well-intentioned legislators,” Gage said. “But the best intentions of a white male, Democrat or Republican, can never replicate the life experience and perspective of a female or a minority board member. The best public policy decisions involve more voices, not fewer.”

Currently, the board’s majority is composed of white men. There are no Latino or American Indian members. The board has eight female and four African-American members.

But Michael Jacobs, professor of finance in the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, said studies have shown excessively large boards hinder debate, in an op-ed in StarNews Media responding to Gage’s piece.

“Best practices in governance would tell you that a 32-person board is very likely to be ineffective and unwieldy,” he said. “And good governance is the goal of this legislation.”

Jacobs said smaller boards provide accountability more effectively.

“The role of a board is not to replicate the population of all stakeholders of an institution; it is to hold the institution accountable for accomplishing its mission and purpose.”

state@dailytarheel.com



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