The Corner


University Boards Aren’t Supposed to Rubber-Stamp Everything

Colleges and universities have boards of directors (or governors) to oversee and guide the school’s operations. Mostly, however, they act like potted plants, rarely challenging the decisions of the administration on how to run things.

That has been the case with the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors (BOG), as Shannon Watkins shows in today’s Martin Center article. 

She surveys five major decisions within the last year and, in each case, the BOG voted to go along with the policy favored by the administration: lowering minimum admission standards, suspending the SAT requirement, keeping tuition and fees at previous levels during the COVID pandemic with its mostly online classes, adopting a new policy on chancellor searches that gives the UNC president more power, and agreeing to curtail the power of BOG members to study matters on their own.

A small number of the BOG members did speak out against and vote against those measures, but they were a small minority. Why do most readily go along? Watkins writes, “The reasons might be personal. Perhaps they don’t want to be known as bothersome members who raise pestering questions. The few board members who do routinely raise difficult questions are often singled out and joked about in the manner of ‘oh no, so-and-so is at it again.’ It is much more comfortable to go with the flow in order to maintain amicable relationships with the UNC establishment.”

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


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