Whenever frustration, disappointment or even anger is felt toward the UNC administration and governing bodies, who do you blame?
It could be Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, who faced much criticism on UNC’s botched reopening plan in the fall of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. It could be the Board of Trustees, which failed to approve Nikole Hannah-Jones’ application for tenure despite many recommendations for approval. Or maybe it’s the Board of Governors, which decided to provide $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans to continue the preservation of the fallen Silent Sam monument until the deal was voided by a judge.
Obviously, there’s a clear disconnect between students and leaders.
The power structure and appointment of leaders in the UNC School System are two important factors in understanding this disconnect. The UNC System is governed by the Board of Governors, which has responsibility for the planning, development and overall governance of the UNC System.
The Board of Governors has 24 voting members that serve terms of four years. Members are elected by the Senate and House of Representatives of the North Carolina General Assembly.
Currently, both the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives have a Republican majority. This is reflected in the BOG's makeup. Of the 24 members, 16 are white men, the rest being women and BIPOC. This means white men make up two-thirds of a system that holds most of the power over UNC-Chapel Hill.
In sharp contrast, UNC has a student body that is almost 60 percent female. In addition, nearly 35 percent of its student body is BIPOC.
For a university that claims to advocate for diversity and representation, the UNC school system fails to provide this representation of students within its leadership.
But what power does the Board of Governors really have?
The Board of Governors appoints the majority of trustees on boards at Chapel Hill and 15 other state universities. The BOT has the final say on faculty tenure and advises chancellors on the management of their campuses.
The North Carolina legislature also appoints select trustees.
Governor Roy Cooper, on the other hand, doesn't. Republican lawmakers stripped him of trustee-naming power after he was first elected in 2016. Democratic leaders, including Cooper, are shut out of board appointments under a legal framework not found in most states.
The BOG also has the power of electing the UNC System President.
The President has complete authority to manage the affairs and execute the policies of the UNC System, along with the BOG's discretion. The President is also in charge of nominating chancellors for each of the UNC System’s universities for appointment by the Board of Governors.
The UNC administration is often criticized by students for its decisions in many aspects of student life here at Carolina. This is supported by the fact that a diverse student body — with diverse opinions and affiliations — attends an institution that is governed by a group of people that simply do not represent them adequately.
It’s imperative that the University takes a closer look at the powers that the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees have, and altering bylaws and legislation that currently silence students, faculty and staff.
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