Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Part 3: Politics and UNC Board of Governors; Equal representation for all 17 UNC campuses

This is the third of a three-part post about the UNC Board of Governors which is scheduled to elect officers at a regular meeting, Friday, June 15. Much of what is written is my opinion. Some is based on communications. And some comes from the UNC system website.
I’ve been told more than once—and mostly by my wife—that complainers and critics should offer solutions not just complaints and criticisms. While solutions I offer when I complain or criticize may not always be embraced, at least I'm willing to off suggestions for change. Others just sit idly by and complain about those with possible solutions.

Today, my complaint is that the appointment process to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and the election of its officers is too political and not in the best interest of the entire system. So, I have a solution, a simple proposition that is right on target, if you ask me which you didn't but your reading this anyway. It would nearly eliminate politics from the process and reduce the influence by the General Assembly which means my proposal is dead on arrival. But here it is:

There are 34 members (including two emeritus members) of the University of North Carolina (system) Board of Governors elected by the General Assembly. There are 17 institutions which make up the UNC system. The BOG should be made up of at least two direct academic degree connections to each of the 17 institutions in the system. If that sounds simple, well, it is. This would not prevent more representation by some institutions. For instance, a member could have an undergraduate degree from one and a Masters or PhD from another, but at the very least every constituent member of the UNC system would have two representatives on the BOG.

To accomplish this, start from scratch. All current members would resign at the end of this year. The General Assembly would ceremonially appoint to the Board of Governors but the Boards of Trustees of each of the 17 member institutions would submit two nominees for approval by the legislative appointment process. To get started, one of the two from each of the 17 Universities would be appointed to a 4-year term and the other to a 6-year term. Neither would be allowed to be reappointed, ever. In four years, half the BOG would be replaced with 17 new members appointed to six-year terms. And, two years after that, another round of 17 new members would be appointed for six years. In other words, the 17 Boards of Trustees would actually designate its members to the UNC BOG. And, by limiting members to one term, there would be no political pressure while facing re-appointment.

The position of Chairperson of the BOG should be filled on a two-year rotating basis, campus by campus, in alphabetical order. First up would be a member of the Appalachian State delegation with one of the two ASU appointees elected by the full board. If one wants it and the other doesn’t, the one who wants to be Chairperson would be elected by default. The Vice Chairperson would come from second on the alphabetical list, East Carolina University. Other elected positions and appointments to committee chairs would continue down the list. After two years, East Carolina gets the chairperson position, either the person who was Vice-Chair or the other ECU member. No BOG member could serve in one of these positions if his/her remaining term on the BOG is less than two years. While Appalachian State would be first up as Chairperson in 2013, it would be 2047 before anyone representing ASU would be Chairperson again.

This plan should help reduce the political influence by the General Assembly and reduce politics on the Board of Governors. It would also even out institutional representation on the BOG. It could create more diversity, which is needed, on the BOG, and it would probably add more female representation. Currently there are only five females on the BOG. Another result, good or bad, is that it could strengthen the position of President of the UNC system while reminding that person to pay even attention to all 17 institutions. That person would lead the ever-changing and less political BOG and rely much more on input from the 17 Chancellors and Boards of Trustees creating an academic synergy that could boost the entire system with all 17 institutions working for the better good of all even if it means tough investigations into academic wrong-doings on any of the campuses.

A problem with what I propose is that it probably makes too much sense, taking politics out of the appointments and BOG elections. This proposal to change the make-up of and election process to the UNC Board of Governors does not alter the fact that there’s an election this Friday between Paul Fulton and Peter Hans for the position of Chairperson. And, it does not relieve political pressure on some of the 34 members to vote for one candidate over the other while others of the 34 BOG members are paying no attention to BOG politics and will actually vote their conscious instead of how someone has told them to vote.

The process itself is interesting. The Board of Governors is scheduled to meet Friday at 9 a.m. in the board room of The Spangler Center in Chapel Hill. The meeting is open to the public except for a portion that’s closed to the public. The election of officers takes place in public session at the end of the agenda and after the closed session.

During the closed session, the BOG Committee on University Governance will make its report to the full BOG. The report will include recommendations for the elective process, a discussion about which will take place at a Governance Committee meeting the afternoon before, less than 24 hours before the BOG election. So, the rules of the election can be changed late Thursday afternoon. Or not, keeping the process to the liking of Chairperson Hannah Gage and her vice chair and chair candidate Mr. Hans. (The Chairperson of the Governance Committee is Mr. Bill Daughtridge, Jr., of Rocky Mount who was once the Chief of Staff to NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis. I have no idea who Mr. Daughtridge supports for the Chair of the BOG, but connecting the dots is easy unless he proclaims otherwise.)

In a letter May 9, 2012, Laura B. Fjeld, Vice President and General Counsel to the UNC General Administration, outlined the election process to the BOG. (Find the letter at the UNC BOG Premeeting Materials/Minutes website. Once there, scroll down to the Committee on University Governance and then click on Tab 6 – Review of the Election Process. If you have the time, there's other intersting reading at that website location.) According Ms. Fjeld, once nominations have been made, there is no “plan that would include a forum for questions and answers for nominees.”

Maybe the Committee of University Governance will address and change the lack of candidate Q&A at its Thursday afternoon meeting or maybe the current leadership on the BOG does not want that to happen to keep the election process tight and tidy. In small groups such as the BOG  (34 is relatively small but probably too large for its purpose), an open forum to question the candidates would make the process better. But then that’s my humble opinion as is much of what I’ve written the last three days.

In any event, there’s a BOG election this Friday, and, due to politics, Peter Hans seems to have the inside track to being elected the next Chairperson. If that happens, the grip by the General Assembly on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors will be a little tighter, at least that's what I see happening. Or, if Paul Fulton is elected, the General Assembly might send a message of disapproval through decreased financial support for projects such as Carolina North, a NCSU Centennial Campus look-alike on the Chapel Hill campus, and that would be politics as usual, penalizing the UNC system for bucking the leadership of the General Assembly. Either way, it'll be a shame.

Or maybe there’s a third candidate who can pull support from both camps and take a major step away from politics, sending a message to the General Assembly in particular and the public at large that the Board of Governors remains an independent, policy-making body dedicated to fairness across the entire UNC system, all 17 constituent institutions. That would be a commendable path for this University of North Carolina Board of Governors.


  1. "a commendable path" but unlikely in the current political environment. For that matter, unlikely in the previous Democratic-controlled environments as well!

  2. rekemp: Thanks for your comments, but the discussion needs to start someplace even with the political climate.

  3. Where was your worrying about the BOG representation before 2010?


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