March 16, 2020
ICYMI: UNC Board of Governors and trustees must embrace more accountability

Recorded votes, board training and education programs, and clarified public duty are a few of the suggested improvements made by national advocates to increase accountability in the University of North Carolina system. In a recent opinion editorial published in the News & Record, Dr.James Toscano and Dr. James V. Koch of Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust write:

“In states across the country, legitimate tensions exist between state legislatures,governing boards and institutional leaders on questions of who’s responsible for priorities such as keeping college affordable. But one thing is clear: To build public trust in the governance of North Carolina higher education,members of the system-level Board of Governors and the institution-level boards of trustees must embrace a public duty and usher in fundamental changes that increase accountability.”

The authors remind board members to embrace the unique responsibilities delegated to them and rebuke higher education leaders who call for more outright independence, stating:

“[I]ndependence without accountability is not just imperfect, it’s the enemy of the good – the public good, that is.”

The op-ed points to a recent campaign led by Partners in neighboring Virginia for more transparency, accountability, and afford ability in state higher education.

“Last year, Virginia passed legislation that says the state must educate its board members that their “primary duty” is to citizens. This means board members must go beyond their most elementary fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the institution and instead balance the financial comfort of an institution with affordability and accessibility for in-state students,industry needs and taxpayer concerns.”

The op-ed continues:

“And just recently, Virginia passed a bill that mandates state-delivered biennial training and educational programs for all board members. North Carolina,similarly, should ensure all board members are aware of national best practices and innovations.
Furthermore,policymakers should require that individual board member votes be recorded on major decisions, making support or opposition to proposals clear to the public,no different from treatment of lawmakers.”

Read the full op-ed HERE!