The UNC Board of Governors currently houses 32 members, but that’s all about to change. A new law will shrink that number 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 beginning later this year, they’ll appoint 12.
“There are arguments, as you know, particularly in the private sector that smaller boards are better—they work more efficiently,” said BOG Chairman Lou Bissette. “And I think that’s true in most instances and probably true here in a lot of ways.”
Bissette said even though shrinking the board could make decision-making more effective, it’s also important to consider that the board needs to be full of diverse members with diverse backgrounds.
“We’re a large institution, with 17 different campuses plus some auxiliaries,” he said. “We’re spread out across the state, so we need broad diversity. Not only geographically, but in others that reflect our population. So, whether it’s 24 or 32, it’s more important to me as to who those people are.”
It was initially a fear with some current members that if the board got smaller, so would the number of minority members who could represent the university system.
Non-voting board member Hannah Gage wrote in an op-ed for the News and Observer that shrinking the board will likely result in it becoming less diverse.
But Michael Jacobs, a professor of the practice at the Kenan-Flagler Graduate School of Business, wrote in a responding piece in Wilmington’s Star News that a smaller board would not mean a less diverse one. He said shrinking the board down to 24 members would instead make it more accountable. He also said that a smaller board would provide better chances for criticism, dialogue and focus.
However, Bissette said the BOG does not choose its own members.
“That’s up to the legislature,” he said. “I hope that we will have a diverse board…I think we need more diversity on our board.”
The General Assembly will elect new members to the Board of Governors this summer.