Pope Center president: The ‘Conservative’ UNC Board of Governors Doesn’t Act Very Conservative

Jenna A. Robinson submits the following:

Over the past year, the UNC Board of Governors has taken heat on a number of topics, most notably the decision to seek a new System president and the Centers and Institutes oversight process. At one meeting in Charlotte, student protestors shut down the Board’s proceedings. Some had to be escorted from the building by campus police.

But those two instances are the only examples of real change by the Board. Campus outrage notwithstanding, the Board has done very little in terms of furthering conservative reform.

Examples from the past year are illustrative:

    • Last week, administrative salaries were raised—despite serious objections from several Board members.
    • Last year, the Board requested a budget increase of $288 million, or 11.3 percent.
    • Only three centers were cut—despite evidence that dozens engage in political activism.
    • The Board voted to lower admissions standards at three UNC institutions—despite objections from several Board members.
    • The presidential search process is opaque to anyone who is not on the search committee—even other members of the Board!
    • Too many Board leaders and members say “Yes” to all of UNC’s requests.


But we know that many reformers are on the Board. Many have proven their reformist bona fides. So, why hasn’t there been any change?

    • Board members don’t receive information in time to make informed votes. In one instance, 99 pages of documents were added to the Board’s materials on the morning of the meeting.
    • Asking questions is difficult. Last year, the Carolina Journal reported, “a new board policy [BOG Chairman John] Fennebresque implemented requires either his authorization or approval from committee chairmen to seek additional information not in the board’s meeting packets.”
    • New reform-minded members are locked out of the presidential search process. Instead, the committee includes two former members of the Board whose terms ended in July.
    • Board members are given very little time to ask questions or make comments on proposed policy changes.
    • The UNC Presidential Search Committee, made up of just 11 of the Board’s 32 members, has shared very little information about the process. In an article entitled “UNC-system president search leaves public in the dark,” the Daily Tar Heel reported, “the search for [Tom Ross’] successor has remained largely a mystery, with only three months left in his term.”
    • Reformers on the Board have no power to set the agenda, seriously limiting the issues they are able to affect.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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