****UPDATE: The North Carolina House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill 39 on Wednesday. It now awaits action in the state Senate.****
As it stands now, the UNC System Board of Governors comprises 32 members. But if a new bill passes, that number will shrink to 24 by mid-2019.
The North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives appoint new board members every two years. In 2015 and before, they appointed 16 new members. But if House Bill 39 passes, in 2017 they will appoint 12.
“We believe that by decreasing the total number of people, you will actually get more involvement and more engagement from the members of the board,” said House Representative David Lewis, a co-sponsor of the bill.
However, House Education Committee Member and Representative Mickey Michaux said he’s worried that if the Board of Governors’ membership gets smaller, so will the number of minorities representing the university system.
“There are four minority members of that board right now,” he said. “And only one sitting on that board has any experience with a historically black college and university. The others have no experience—very little experience with those schools at all.”
According to the Associated Press, UNC System President Margaret Spellings recently told a newspaper that shrinking the board would be something worth exploring.
Lewis said the purpose of shrinking the board isn’t to make membership less diverse, but instead to streamline decision-making processes and make the board more effective.
He said, however, there’s always a chance to open up a conversation about representation after the Senate and House make their nominations for new members.
“The place to make that stand is when the actual nominees come forward if they don’t fit the profile that you think the schools need,” he said. “This bill itself is about the size of the board.”
The bill passed through the committee with a vote of 10-3, and is on the calendar to go before the full House Wednesday.