As is their wont, Republicans in the General Assembly pushed through their chosen candidates to sit on the UNC Board of Governors with little to no input from the Democratic minority.
The Senate’s election came one day after a rancorous debate in the House, where Democrats objected to leadership’s decision to hold an up-or-down vote on a predetermined slate of candidates, rather than hold an election by ballot as in previous years.
Instead of allowing for rigorous discussion or debate, Leader Berger presented a slate for a straight yes or no vote, stifling the opportunity for a deliberative process. Which is exactly what the General Assembly needs with regard to the governing body of our university system.
Ever since Republican ascendence in the NCGA, the collegial atmosphere of university leadership has steadily withered. This isn’t idle speculation, either. The past year alone has been turbulent, with System President Margaret Spellings choosing to leave and UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt seemingly forced out over her handling of Silent Sam.
Whether the NCGA is derelict through inaction or heavy-handedness, they find ways to trifle with and higher education all the same. Wherever you fall on the issue of Confederate monuments, the easiest (and small government) solution would have been to delegate to localities the right to maintain or remove the statuary. Instead — and on the heels of the Charleston massacre, mind you — Republican leaders moved to protect inanimate objects with no regard to how municipal leaders and residents felt.
Republican leaders inject themselves into the minutiae of higher education and then, when their presence creates tension and difficulties, they double down. They have demonstrated as much with the reappointment of the same tired and ineffective leadership that brought us to this point.
Anybody that has taken a cursory glance at a state newspaper knows that the current BOG has been rife with division, yet Berger “downplayed recent infighting among board members and controversies surrounding the ousters of leaders like UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor Carol Folt and system president Margaret Spellings.”
He also issued this sage advice about the loss of two premier education leaders: “I think there’s a reason for all of the changes that have taken place, and a lot of time when changes occur, some people like it, some don’t like it.” So true.
While Republicans seem to remain hostile to our university system, our strong state schools are one of the key components of growth to our state. People want their kids to attend our schools, and businesses know that native North Carolinians can acquire a world-class education without leaving home and without bearing hundreds of thousands in debt.
The GOP can continue their crusade against our universities, but lowering corporate tax rates to near-zero will not entice businesses to come here when there is no educated workforce to employ.
Kirk Kovach is a native North Carolinian interested in writing about politics, communication and culture.