by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center focuses on the frequent absence of “no” votes among the UNC System’s Board of Governors. That board sets statewide policies for the North Carolina’s public universities.
The members of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors are charged with a solemn duty: to oversee and guide the state’s public university system. Although some of their day-to-day responsibilities might seem mundane, many of the decisions they make shape the system’s standards, values, and the extent to which the university’s dual mission of truth-seeking and public service is fulfilled.
Yet, although BOG members often pride themselves on being “bold leaders” of the university system, they rarely vote “no” on any of the decisions brought before them—even on items that might be considered controversial.
Granted, sometimes the board isn’t asked to vote on potentially controversial items. For example, the full UNC BOG was not given a chance to vote on the report of the Racial Equity Task Force. Instead, the Task Force itself voted on and approved the report, then presented it to UNC System President Peter Hans and UNC BOG Chairman Randy Ramsey.
At other times, the board votes on items that are truly non-controversial, such as resolutions to honor retiring employees for their long service in the university system or appointing members to the board of the North Carolina Arboretum.
However, board members still tend to rubber-stamp even when the items in question involve weighty matters that could significantly affect the system’s structure and direction.
They are asked to consider, for example, whether or not to maintain the cost of tuition and fees in light of a global pandemic. It is up to them to decide the entire system’s minimum admissions standards. The board also determines, in many ways, the extent of their own influence and authority.