Twelve new members will be introduced in the UNC-system Board of Governors in July — the majority of whom are white and Republican.
The North Carolina House of Representatives voted April 5 to elect their six board members, joining the Senate’s six picks from last month.
A quarter of the board’s new members have relationships with the N.C. General Assembly — including former lawmakers Leo Daughtry, Rob Bryan and Bob Rucho and Randall Ramsey, who lost in the 2015 Senate primary.
Rucho, a former N.C. senator representing Mecklenburg, had a hand in drawing the 2011 Senate districting map. In August, the districts were ruled to be “racial gerrymanders” and in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Lou Bissette, chairperson of the board, said in an email he welcomes the new board members.
New members represent a wide range of expertise and are dedicated to providing expanded opportunities for North Carolinians, he said.
“The new UNC Strategic Plan seeks to strengthen our public education system,” Bissette said. “And we look forward to harnessing their leadership and vision in these efforts.”
Earlier this year, lawmakers voted to shrink the Board of Governors from 32 members to 24 by 2018.
The 12 new board members are mostly Republicans, with only Kellie Hunt Blue and Wendy Murphy registered as unaffiliated. Blue, of Robeson County, was the only new member that voted in the 2016 Democratic primary election.
Madeline Finnegan, student member of the Board of Governors, said she’s concerned about the trend to elect former North Carolina lawmakers to the board.
“ ... The thing that I worry about is the trend toward partisanship in the people elected to the board,” she said. “If the new members of the board can put partisanship aside and think about the issues, then I’m really happy to have them there.”
But Finnegan also said the board’s new members diversify the universities represented within the UNC school system.
“There are a lot of new members, and I’m excited because I see a lot of people from the board from universities that are not currently represented, like UNC-Pembroke and UNC-Wilmington,” she said. “That’s a really great step forward.”
Jenna Robinson, president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, said the board shouldn’t necessarily be representative of the students in the UNC system, but rather North Carolina taxpayers.
“Students are a part of it, but overall, students are very different from taxpayers,” she said. “The way the board is set up, (it) is an oversight body, not a parliament for the university system.”
Robinson said the board must consider the priorities of North Carolina taxpayers and students, rather than pass policies that only benefit the universities.
“Universities would love their appropriations to keep going up, up and up every year, but the board, because they’re representing not just the university but the taxpayers of North Carolina, have to balance those concerns with concerns about costs,” she said.
Finnegan said serving students and university staff should be a priority to the board.
“The BOG serves students more directly than it serves taxpayers,” she said. “So we want to be doing things that benefit North Carolina and give taxpayers a really great return, but I think when we only look at it from that way, we might only look at our return as dollars rather than what is best for the university system.”
Finnegan said she hopes the new members of the board will look to students for feedback when making policies that will affect universities.
“In the short term with these new members, what I hope is they engage with students, faculty and staff a lot more,” she said. “That’s really important for better informed decision-making as a board member.”
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