The Corner

Education

UNC Board of Governors Is No Longer Liberal Rubber Stamp

For many decades in the past, Democrats appointed most members of the UNC Board of Governors, which happily approved everything that the liberal administrators and academics wanted. There was no conflict because there was no difference of opinion.

But over the last decade, the Republicans have had control over the general assembly and they’ve used that to put people on the UNC Board who are not leftists and don’t just nod in approval at liberal plans for the system. As you’d guess, that development has leftist commentators in the state in a snit. They’re calling the system broken and in need of fixing now that they aren’t in control. (It’s just like the Electoral College — Democrats lose so the system has to be changed.)

In today’s Martin Center piece, Jay Schalin writes about the strife in NC over the Board.

Among the sharpest critics of the board is the Raleigh News & Observer. The editors fume over the board’s actions. Schalin writes:

The paper’s editors fail to see that the board is protecting the university’s reputation among the general public and their elected representatives. The only reputational losses that UNC may suffer because of the board’s actions will be in academia, the establishment media, and liberal enclaves. And there is probably nothing a Republican board could do to please those constituencies, except, perhaps, relinquish its rightful authority.

Here’s one instance of the Board doing its job and thereby incurring the wrath of the Left: Last year, one board member insisted on doing his own digging into the background of the candidate the establishment (i.e., Margaret Spellings) wanted for chancellor of Western Carolina University. The board is supposed to act in the best interests of the system and the member’s due diligence discovered problems that derailed the appointment. But the leftists railed against the board member, demanding that he be “reined in.”

Schalin sums up the situation this way:

By and large, the board is performing the job they were selected to do relatively well. Given the breadth of their job and the intense microscope they are placed under, they can hardly be expected to be perfect or to please everybody. Certainly, they make decisions that disappoint conservatives at times and liberals at others. The critics’ real objection is that the board now contains influential members with a different philosophy of life and education and that the university system may no longer be their private soapbox from which to spread their ideas.

Far too often, public-university boards are filled with people who just want to enjoy the perks and never rock the boat.  North Carolina is fortunate to have one of a different sort.

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George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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