Who Does the UNC Board of Governors Work For?

The creation in August of a Board of Governors Committee on Public Affairs—designed to lobby on behalf of  UNC schools—suggests that it works for the university system.

At its creation in August, the committee was charged with “maintaining a positive relationship with the Governor, the NCGA…and other governmental entities.” And at a committee meeting on Wednesday, the committee made plans to work with university legislative liaisons and university chancellors to help them communicate their needs and state policy priorities to NC legislators. President of the UNC System, Tom Ross, spoke to the committee about his recent legislative visits.

This is a classic case of regulatory capture—when an agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the special interests that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with overseeing. The UNC Board of Governors is appointed by the North Carolina General Assembly. It’s designed to represent the legislators and the people in administering the University system—but instead it ends up representing the interests of UNC.

This isn’t anything new. The Board has always thought of itself as an extension of the UNC System and the General Administration. With the creation of a Public Affairs committee, it’s just been formalized.

The committee is chaired by UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus W. Edwin McMahan, a former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. You can see the full membership of the public affairs committee here (scroll down). The committee’s upcoming agenda is here (PDF).

Jenna A. Robinson

Jenna Ashley Robinson is the president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh, NC.

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