Editorial: A university system should be of the people, not of partisan politicians

2 weeks ago
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The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

North Carolina’s Constitution and state laws are clear. The University of North Carolina and the Board of Governors overseeing it, are “dedicated to the service of North Carolina and its people.”. Further, the board is “charged with the responsibility of serving the best interest of the whole State.”

That’s not the way the leaders of the state legislature see it, when it comes to appointing members of the UNC System Board of Governors.

To be dedicated to the service of “North Carolina and its people,” as well as serving the “best interest of the whole State,” it should be understood – as a matter of obeying the state’s Constitution and laws — the composition of the UNC board closely reflects the state.

That means ALL 10.7 million people living in a state that is 51% female; 61% white and 20% Black. That means ALL 7.5 million registered voters in the state –who are 57% women or undesignated, 39% unaffiliated and other, 32% Democrats and 29% Republicans. That means the enrollment of the UNC system; 55% white, 59% women and 21% Black.

That doesn’t mean the just the Republicans – merely 21% of the state’s population and a political party that is 88% white, 49% female, 2% Black and 10% other or undesignated.

Overall, the UNC board, as hand-picked by the leaders of the state Senate and House of Representatives is: 78% white, 22% female and 17% Black. More than 78% of the 23 current members are Republicans and 9% are Democrats.

It’s not just a failure to reflect the state or even its voters. It isn’t even a reflection of the state’s Republican voters.

It does, however, more closely mirror the supermajority in the gerrymandered General Assembly.

Is it any wonder that the current board is targeting diversity programs in the UNC System and on the individual campuses?

“The governing board of North Carolina’s public universities is woefully lacking in ideological diversity, and it’s members are far more reflective of the Republican leaders who appointed them than of the sate and system the represent,” the editorial board of North Carolina’s McClatchy newspapers accurately observed.

That hasn’t always been the case. For many years, since the modern UNC System was established in 1971, the legislature designed specific objectives in the election of UNC Board members to keep demographic and partisan diversity on the board.

In 2005 the state House and Senate were controlled by Democrats. The UNC board included eight Republicans and 22 Democrats. By 2013, two years after Republicans gained control of both the Senate and the House, there were NO Democrats on the board.

This insularity is also reproduced in the legislature’s appointments to the individual campus trustees. “The insular political makeup of UNC’s governing boards makes its purported commitment to ideological diversity appear hollow and hypocritical,” observed McClatchy’s editorial. “It also hurts the strength of the entire UNC System and the institutions that are part of it.”

North Carolina needs a university system that is, as intended by the state Constitution and state law, those who reflect the interest of “its people” and reflect the “whole state.” That is the spirit and letter of the law our legislators took an oath to follow.

Capitol Broadcasting Company’s Opinion Section seeks a broad range of comments and letters to the editor. Our Comments beside each opinion column offer the opportunity to engage in a dialogue about this article. In addition, we invite you to write a letter to the editor about this or any other opinion articles. Here are some tips on submissions >>SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR…Read more by WRAL

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