WASHINGTON, DC—A new independent study concludes that the Governor should appoint the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to ensure greater accountability and leadership at a time of significant challenges to higher education.
The study, Governance in the Public Interest: A Case Study of the University of North Carolina System, praises the dedication of current board members but finds structural factors that result in a troubling diffusion of responsibility and a lack of statewide leadership.
The study was released on June 6 by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, that promotes greater accountability in higher education. The independent analysis was commissioned by the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.
According to the study: “Right now, with legislators selecting every member on the UNC Board of Governors, often with more regard to local considerations than statewide needs, there is no comprehensive vision, no statewide leadership, no clear accountability.”
The study recommends that the Governor appoint all governing board members, plus all boards of trustees. “A revised structure would provide valid checks and balances and ensure a clear and constitutional separation of powers,” the report says.
“It is much easier for a board to be proactive when a governor appoints them and gives them a mandate to address critical issues consistent with a broad state vision,” said Phyllis Palmiero, education expert and author of the report. “The current structure, where the governor has no formal authority over higher education in North Carolina, makes this impossible.”
The study finds that the Board of Governors could more effectively address state-wide concerns by a greater delegation of authority to the individual boards of trustees. According to the report, “local trustees are in a much better position to make direct decisions on issues pertaining to their particular campuses than the system-wide board.” The study recommends that appointment of senior staff and conferral of tenure, appeals, and compensation be fully delegated to the boards of trustees, with the Board of Governors retaining general oversight.
The study also finds that the 32-member Board of Governors is too large for effective deliberation and recommends that it be downsized to no more than 15 members.
The University of North Carolina Board of Governors is responsible for the system’s 16 four-year colleges. Each college also has its own board of trustees, with its own delegated responsibilities. The study reviewed board minutes and materials and included interviews with a number of board members as well as university administrators from July 2002 to November 2004.
The study gives the current board high marks for attending to business, working collegially with one another and the administration, and addressing important issues such as increasing college access and providing for anticipated enrollment growth.
The study identifies some areas in which board operations could be improved, such as the board’s setting its own agenda, becoming more proactive, and undertaking a self-assessment to determine how it might better direct its efforts to system-wide policy, oversight and initiatives.
“The power to appoint is the power to lead,” said ACTA president Anne D. Neal. “If higher education is to have statewide leadership, that can only come from the highest elected official, the Governor.”
The study is being distributed to the Governor, legislators, the UNC Board of Governors, institutional board members, interested citizens and the media.
This is one of a series of studies produced each year by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni on higher education accountability across the country. ACTA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization based in Washington, DC with members from over 400 colleges and universities across the country. ACTA publications include Politics in the Classroom: A Survey of Students at the Top 50 Colleges and Universities (issued in conjunction with the University of Connecticut Center for Survey Research and Analysis) (2005); The Hollow Core: Failure of the General Education Curriculum (2004);Degraded Currency: The Problem of Grade Inflation (2003); Teachers Who Can: How Informed Trustees Can Ensure Teacher Quality (2003); Can College Accreditation Live Up to Its Promise? (2002); and Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century (2000).