Limit politics in picking UNC board

By Todd Cohen

With Erskine Bowles as president, the 16-campus University of North Carolina system is poised to play a much bigger role in the state’s growth.

UNC can more effectively play that role if the law is changed to limit political cronyism in picking its board.

As the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research notes in a new report, our state is one of the few in which lawmakers elect the state university system’s board.

Among many good recommendations for improving UNC, the center calls for letting the governor appoint three-fourths of the UNC board members.

Unfortunately, that simply would concentrate the spoils system in the governor’s office.

A better approach would let each campus form a nominating committee representing administrators, faculty, students, alumni and donors.

From candidates the committees nominate, the governor would pick three-fourths of the UNC board, and the legislature would pick one-fourth.

Politicians hold a temporary stake in UNC and might tend to pick board members who can influence their political futures or as a reward for past favors.

But people with an ownership stake in the UNC campuses are more likely to nominate board members whose leading qualification is their dedication to improving the university.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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