On Nov. 1, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order establishing the Commission on the Governance of Public Universities.
This commission will evaluate the current appointment system for governance of UNC System schools — including the Board of Governors and individual boards of trustees — in response to concerns about political influence in these organizations, according to a press release.
The executive order also establishes that, no later than eight months from its issuing date, the commission will deliver a report to the Office of the Governor that will provide recommendations for support and oversight of public universities in North Carolina.
Sam Robinson, student body vice president at UNC-CH, noted some dissatisfaction with decisions by the BOG and BOT.
“I think we've seen a number of times decisions that are made by the Board of Trustees or the Board of Governors that might be seen as political, and what I would definitely say are out of step with a majority of students here in Chapel Hill,” Robinson said.
The BOG is composed of 24 voting members who are elected by the N.C. General Assembly, which has maintained a Republican majority since 2010. The board oversees all 17 UNC System schools.
Each BOT at public universities has 13 members. Eight are appointed by the BOG and four are appointed by the General Assembly — two of which are appointed upon the recommendation of the president pro tempore of the N.C. Senate and two are appointed by the recommendation of the speaker of the house. Each university’s student body president also serves on the board.
The governor of North Carolina also once had the power to appoint two individuals to each Board of Trustees. This changed when former Gov. Pat McCrory passed a law in 2016 that effectively eliminated the responsibility after Cooper had been elected.
“It appears as if the governance structure is not working the way it should,” Tom Ross, the UNC System president from 2011 to 2016, said. “There's more political influence than there should be in the system.”