Money for three staff positions for the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) is included in the Senate proposed budget (SB 257), approved on May 22.
The specific provision allocates $300,000 for three staff positions. Normally I’m not an advocate for expanding state government staffs. I will support, however, a provision that rights a wrong. Stay with me.
The UNC Board of Governors is charged with controlling, managing, administering and governing all aspects of the UNC 17 campus system. It must balance the interests of the citizens with the interests of a large and complicated UNC System. Currently, if the BOG needs research it comes from UNCGA. While that may not always be a problem, it should be noted that UNCGA personnel don’t report to the BOG. They report to the president of the university. While this may not always be a problem, when there is friction between the BOG and the UNC President, it can quickly develop into a problem. Need we review the turmoil at UNC over the last two years? The UNC President works for Board of Governors. Yet the UNC President controls all the information and analyses that BOG reviews. That reality tips the playing field and impedes decision making.
Is it typical for a state governing board to have no staff?
Like its counterpart the BOG, the State Board of Education (SBE) is responsible for setting statewide education policy – for K-12 education. NC Department of Public Instruction is charged with administering those polices. The leader of Public Instruction in North Carolina, the State Superintendent, leads NC DPI and also sits on SBE as the chief administrative office of the board. As we know – all too well – in recent years there have been numerous instances when the interests of the two organizations didn’t coincide. That might be one of the reasons why SBE has its own professional staff consisting of an Executive Director, Assistant Executive Director, Legislative Director, four attorneys, three policy analysts and two executive assistants and a paralegal. A significant professional staff by most estimates, and one that certainly makes a statement.
What about similar institutions in other states?
A quick review of eight peer systems revealed two institutions, the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland System, had no professional staff reporting to the governing body of the institution. Six other governing bodies at peer institutions had professional staff. The size of the staffs ranged from three to fourteen. Institutions included: University of Texas System, University of Minnesota System, the University of Virginia, University of Washington and University of Wisconsin System.
Anyone who closely watches how policy is made in state government knows leadership and authority is nothing if can’t control the bureaucracy and the flow of information. Additional professional staff for the Board of Governors levels the playing field and ensures that all voices are heard. Yes, there is a price, but the price of ignoring the problem is even higher.