Composition analysis of UNC’s Board of Governors

Before we get going, I strongly suggest that you ‘set the table’ for today’s entry by reading this fantastic piece that should be mandatory of every taxpayer in the state of North Carolina.

If there is one thing the current athletic cheating and academic fraud scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has brought to light is exactly how “in the hole” the UNC Board of Governors are for their beloved Tar Heels. Why is the Board of Governors so unconcerned with getting to the bottom of this complex story while their “flagship school” is publicly drug through the mud? Where is the outrage? Why aren’t members on the board speaking up like their predecessors so willfully spoke against NC State twenty-one years ago when allegations of impropriety arose? Especially in light of the fact that NC State’s allegations were significantly less egregious than what has already been proven to have transpired in UNC’s Athletics Department?

The answers to ^these questions – and many more like them – have been obvious to most of us for a long time…but you won’t see any changes in the laughably sad power structure of this state until people start pressing for more answers, consistency and accountability from state lawmakers and the University of North Carolina system.

Like the main blog here at SFN, our our message forums have buzzed with information regarding UNC’s multi-pronged athletic and academic scandal since things started unraveling earlier in the year. One thread that has garnered significant attention over the last month is this one that scrutinizes the very strong pro-UNC-Chapel Hill composition of the University system’s Board of Governors.

Even if one entertains the arrogant Carolina-centric notion that the self-anointed status as the UNC system’s ‘flagship’ is appropriate, I would posit that does not translate into an implicit presumption that all of the other universities in the UNC system are crap schools that can just be ignored and overlooked.  

Consider our beloved NC State.  North Carolina State University has ranked in the national top 20 universities in the following disciplines over the last two years:

1. Graduate Programs
2. Agricultural Engineering
3. Biological Engineering
4. Veterinary Medicine
5. Textiles
6. Chemical Engineering
7. Environmental Engineering
8. Industrial Engineering

This does not include other honors such as NC State’s ranking as the 10th best public university in research (without the aid of a medical school); the 7th in the nation in industry-funded research; and the 10th best value in the country as ranked by Kiplingers.  The point is that NC State brings plenty of national prestige and recognition to the state of North Carolina, not to mention a lot of industry-created jobs and an influx of money into the state economy.

On that note, let’s consider the current make-up of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.  The current Board includes 11 undergraduates from UNC-Chapel Hill.  Compare that to the second most represented institution – NC State with only 4 representatives, followed by East Carolina and Appalachian State (representatives each).  This chasm of representation ultimately creates a gross bias towards many things ‘UNC-Chapel Hill’.  The graphic below compares the number of current seats on the BOG by undergraduate population of each institution and their endowments. (Graphic can be expanded by clicking).

As you can see, the Board of Governors seems to actually follow undergraduate population fairly well… except for Carolina.  While some smaller institutions may not be represented at all (such as UNC-W or WCU), ECU, ASU, NC A&T, NCCU, and NC State seem to actually follow a population-based representation scheme.  The only anomaly is Carolina who would, theoretically, only have 3 representatives instead has 11 if seats were awarded via population  It appears that everyone must “play fair” with respect to population except for Carolina who feels obliged to follow a more economically-based representation scheme.

Bear in mind that typically the university someone attends as an undergrad is typically where their loyalties lie.  A great example of this was observed during the fight between UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina when the Pirates wanted to plunder the Tar Heel’s monopoly on dentists by establishing their own dental school.  During this political struggle, representatives from UNC-Chapel Hill were quoted as arguing against ECU receiving their own dental school by explaining dental schools smaller than 800 students tend to be ineffective and ECU’s school would be far too small to be efficient at producing dentists.  These statements and this position resulted in ECU being denied a dental school in 2002.  For your information, UNC-Chapel Hill’s dental school has 320 students… but that wasn’t the point the Board of Governors wanted to make. (Since then, ECU has successfully made another bid for a dental school and won.)

To avoid one-sided fist-fights and politically biased battles like this, how could a Board of Governors be set up to ensure all member institutionals have some form of equality or, at the very least, accurately represent the students, teachers, faculty and community they are to govern?  The following comes from my post in the SFN forums:

(1) Equal respresentation. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea because it gives smaller institutions a bigger voice to coordinate efforts and resources with bigger institutions to help improve themselves. A school system is like a city: the nice places only look so good if the majority of your community is full of slums. Boosting our periphrial institutions will make the whole body of work better. RESULT: All institutions equal.

(2) Weighted representation based on population. This would be the most “goal oriented” way to set up your BoG. It ensures that the BoG represents what the people in North Carolina want to study and where at. There could be an implied drawback here due to allowing students to effectively decide the landscape of the BoG. It’s a pretty common preception that most college students have poor ideas of what they want to do or chose a university based on less-than-credible rationales (like “they have good sports” or “my girl friend goes there”). Despite that, there is still obvious benefit in ensuring that the BoG concern themselves with the matters that a majority of their “customers” are concerned about by setting their numbers relative to each institution based on enrollment. RESULT: NCSU leads the Board followed by UNC-CH, ECU, UNCC, et al

(3) Weighted representation based on endowement. An argument could be made that the BoG should follow the money because it is a sound business plan designed to follow the money. The obvious benefit is that you let who is “good” with money make the majority decision in hopes of benefiting the whole. Unfortunately, this most likely would lead to a BoG less concerned with improving the prestige and proficiency of it’s allied institutions and more concerned with reducing costs (via cutting spending that funds scholarships and student/academic programs) and increase renevue (through higher fees and tuition rates).  [The one exception would be the majority “owner” of the Board which would obviously get top cuts off budgets and financial allotments.] This most closely resembles the situation going on in the State of North Carolina now. RESULT: You’re living it baby. Carolina as top dog followed by NCSU, ECU…

The table below shows how the Board of Governors would be comprised if representatives’ undergraduate degrees were fairly distributed based on either population or endowment.  Note that, as shown in the graphic, every university appears to reasonably follow a population-based representation besides Carolina.

University Actual Reps Based on…
ASU 3 2 0
ECU 3 3 1
ECSU 0 0 0
FSU 0 1 0
NC A&T 1 1 0
NCCU 1 1 0
NCSU 4 3 4
UNC-A 0 1 0
UNC-CH 11 3 16
UNC-C 0 3 1
UNC-G 1 2 1
UNC-P 1 1 0
UNC-W 0 2 0
UNC Arts 0 0 0
WCU 0 1 0
WSSU 0 1 0


The argument could be made that the Board of Governors isn’t some sort of undergraduate-only party.  I mean, to be completely fair, we have to look at graduate degrees too, right?  Well, we here at StateFansNation thought of that.  Below is a graphic that represents how a notional Board of Governors would look based on total institution population and endowment and compares them to the total number of degrees represented on the Board regardless of graduate or undergraduate status.


Similarly, here is the same data tabulated.

University Actual Reps Based on…
ASU 4 3 1
ECU 5 5 1
ECSU 0 1 0
FSU 0 1 0
NC A&T 2 2 0
NCCU 3 2 0
NCSSM (HS) 0 0
NCSU 5 6 7
UNC-A 0 1 0
UNC-CH 21 6 27
UNC-C 0 5 1
UNC-G 1 4 2
UNC-P 1 1 0
UNC-W 0 3 1
UNC Arts 0 0 0
WCU 0 2 0
WSSU 0 1 0

Well…well…well. What do you know? The exact same trend occurs! Again, it appears that all of the schools in the UNC system are allocated BOG seats along proportional student populations EXCEPT the folks from Chapel Hill!? I’m starting to get a better understanding of this “Carolina Way” stuff.

The UNC Board of Governors is responsible for “the general determination, control, supervision, management, and governance of all affairs of the constituent institutions”.  This means that even though they are not currently set up in a way that shows an effort to represent the interests of all member institutions, their mission begs them to ensure the needs and “affairs of the constituent institutions” are heard and addressed.  It’s very similar to the politics of our nation: even non-state territories are given representation in our government since our government makes decisions on their behalf.  Similarly, it is simply an abuse of power for there to be such a lop-sided influence in the decision making process favoring one institution over another.

You can’t fault UNC-CH for being a ‘victim’ of the system that their alums in power at the state legislature created, but can you fault them for continuing to perpetuate the image of the “ruling elite”.   If it never dawned upon the geniuses in state government that maybe they should more accurately represent the needs of all member institutions, consider this as their notice.  It’s time that each member institution grumbles louder about this kind of mis-representation in order to elevate the prestige and performance of all of the system’s Universities.

About NCStatePride

***ABOUT THE AUTHOR: NCStatePride has been writing for since 2010 and is a 2009 graduate of the College of Engineering.

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31 Responses to Composition analysis of UNC’s Board of Governors

  1. Statefan1998 11/16/2010 at 12:40 PM #

    This is wonderful and sad all at the same moment. Things will never change.

  2. PackFanInLA 11/16/2010 at 12:46 PM #

    Very good analysis. Doesn’t surprise me in the least.

    On another note.. Can you imagine how boring it would be to be on one of those dumb boards, listening to people drone on all day?

    Probably why more NC State graduates aren’t on there — they are out there actually DOING something with their lives.

  3. Homeboy 11/16/2010 at 12:52 PM #

    are you advocating some sort of ‘affirmative action’ for BOG members?

    Do we really think that the composition of the BOG viz their undergraduate degrees has any relevant bearing on the current foolishness over at the football team at Carolina?

    I’m not sure if we’re right to assume that the BOG members (no matter where they went to school) are as petty as we are regarding these issues- that sports affiliations matter as much to them as they do to us. We should beware to avoid that error.

    Maybe they are.

    NCStatePride: You’ve completely missed the point. The board of governors is set up the way it is simply because it’s always been that way. It’s not “related” to the Carolina scandal, but it does affect it via a lack of institutional discipline over the “majority owner” of the board of governors.

    good…then we agree on the first part. Glad to hear it.

    However, I don’t think we’ve clearly shown how it does ‘affect it via a lack of institutional discipline’. I’d like to see more definitive evidence on this.

  4. packof81 11/16/2010 at 1:10 PM #

    As I’ve said earlier, this scandal stinks as high as it goes. By not coming down hard on UNC, the UNC administration, the BOG and the NCAA are demonstrating their corruption.

  5. packplantpath 11/16/2010 at 1:19 PM #

    I like the idea of having a proportional allotment of seats based on student body as you mention, but with a cap on the total proportion that are UNC system grads at 80-85%. So, 15-20% of the total would have to go to graduates of other, non-UNC-system universities.

    We need to allot space for outsiders.

  6. StateFans 11/16/2010 at 1:21 PM #

    I respectively disagree with the approach of analyzing this relative to Endowment size. In summary, I don’t understand the correlation of the pot of money controlled by an individual university campus to the governance of the entire university system.

    If anything, the idea that a single campuses’ endowment creates more system-wide power serves to reinforce the premise of exclusivity and elitism being controlled by the historical power structure.

  7. Homeboy 11/16/2010 at 1:29 PM #

    and if NCSU were 90 years older than every other school in the system, the graph would look the same, with some labels switched.

    Not saying it should be that way, but it is, and it’s got nothing to do with sports. It’s got to do with history, which I hope they’re still teaching in the 1st year college.

  8. wufpup76 11/16/2010 at 1:34 PM #

    Regardless of whether the BoG does or should care about sports scandals (after all, they cared at least one time) – the article still makes valid points.

    Perception is reality … and the perception is that they have successfully created their own little CH based regime.

    CH deos get everything after all …

    “We are better than you. We are smarter than you. We know what is best and we know what is best for you. We will think for you since you can’t think for yourself. It’s only fair, because we are the cream. Trust us, we won’t cheat anyone (until the chips are down – fingers crossed behind the back). Just acknowledge our superiority and submit to us … Allow us to rule – as we should.”

    Even if nothing were going on in CH I would want the BoG composition to be reviewed. This reeks of elitism regardless of whether it actually does or not.

    Follow the money indeed.

  9. wvillepack 11/16/2010 at 1:48 PM #

    I agree packof81. If this was happening at ncsu,ecu, etc. Heads would roll. For unc to stand on their high horse and talk about earning the privilege of wearing the carolina blue and then to appeal the decision by NCAA on several guilty players does not mix. Is it an honor or can any thug where the Carolina blue? Can’t have it both ways. Oh, after reading the above article, I guess unc and only unc can!

  10. Homeboy 11/16/2010 at 1:50 PM #

    Perception is indeed not reality; some things are true, no matter how much we may not want them to be (and vice versa).

    All I’m saying is that we be careful not to (pardon the pun) cry wolf and, in so doing, fail to attribute blame and responsibility where it actually belongs – ie on the UNC football program and players.

    Assuming that there is some great scheme or cabal at work removes the truly guilty (see above) from responsibility, which is what none of us wants.

    Again: I seriously doubt that the BOG members care about sports as much as we all here do, nor that they allow their decisions to be made regarding sports issues as much as we like to think they do. If the shoe were on the other foot and NCSU had that kind of disproportionate #s on the board, I hope we’d all feel the same way.

  11. wolfbuff 11/16/2010 at 1:55 PM #

    From the BOG web site “The 32 voting members of the Board of Governors are elected by the General Assembly for four-year terms.” Don’t blame the BOG members for all being UNC grads; blame the legislature. What would be interesting is an analysis of the undergraduate degrees of the General Assembly. I seem to recall years ago that the legislature was populated by a disproportionate number of ECU grads, which is why they were successful at forcing us to play them.

  12. Gowolves 11/16/2010 at 1:59 PM #

    Perception is reality. You can’t change peoples mind even if you have the facts right in front of their face. They are gonna beleive what they want to beleive.

  13. highstick 11/16/2010 at 2:02 PM #

    Blame the voters for electing these clowns and N C State grads for continuing to be apathetic in politics(because so few run for political office)..

  14. NCStatePride 11/16/2010 at 2:11 PM #

    Response to StateFans: If that is the portrayed message, then it was not intended. From the article, I mention the one exception to the endowment based representation being “fair” would be whoever has the largest endowment who would likely be able to control the decision making and maintain their level of control. In other words, this form of representation encourages that everyone is represented equally… except the one school who has the largest endowment. They would obviously get “top cut” off any budgeted items and their agenda would be the most pressed. I included the numerical results of an endowment-based representation not as an endorsement, but to show how unfairly each member would be represented and how the only school that seems to currently be represented this was is Carolina.

  15. Homeboy 11/16/2010 at 2:15 PM #

    I think you’re right, gowolves…as the late Daniel Moynihan famously said, “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not is own facts”.

  16. 93Pack 11/16/2010 at 2:42 PM #

    How about allowing each school to appoint one representative to the BOG so that every school has a voice. Then either give each school additional reps based on school population or let the General Assembly elect the remaining members.

  17. Homeboy 11/16/2010 at 3:11 PM #

    ^ Sounds like a good and fair idea…

    while we’re at it, we can change the criteria for the state board of education, which is currently a strictly appointed (by the governor) position.

  18. sfpack 11/16/2010 at 3:16 PM #

    Glad to see this on the front page, thanks for continuing to bring this to light. I agree with StateFans – the endowment should have nothing to do with representation on the board, and I would say that if we had the largest endowment.

  19. bb1983 11/16/2010 at 3:17 PM #

    >> I’m not sure if we’re right to assume that the BOG members (no matter where they went to school) are as petty as we are regarding these issues

    It has little to do with being petty. I would expect a representative of NCSU to fight for the integrity of the degree when it is called into question over an academic dishonesty issue. I expect the same from another school’s representatives.

    >> Not saying it should be that way, but it is, and it’s got nothing to do with sports. It’s got to do with history

    Speaking of history, if you read biographies of prominent figures it is remarkable how much of history boils down to personal ego and relationships. I’ll always defend NCSU’s side of an argument, even if it is the weaker side. Don’t expect the small-pond big fish like the UNC BOG to check their egos at the door if our own governors, presidents, and Fortune 500 CEO’s cannot do the same. Why do you think prominent businessmen like Richard Vaughn and Wendell Murphy give millions of dollars to build athletic facilities in their own names? These well-respected individuals want their school’s athletic programs to be seen in high regard. Don’t expect those views to change when these people are elected to serve on an advisory committee.

    >> Blame the voters for electing these clowns

    Amen. On many levels, amen.

    As crazy as it is for UNC to have eleven seats, it is ridiculous for UNCW, UNCC, etc to have ZERO seats on the board. Imagine if Wyoming and Nevada were excluded from congress…

  20. 93Pack 11/16/2010 at 3:20 PM #

    On second thought, take the General Assembly out of it all together. Allow each school administration to appoint their BOG representative(s) to a four year term. Number of reps per school determined by total student enrollment with each school getting at least one rep.

  21. 89BSBA 11/16/2010 at 3:41 PM #

    As pointed out earlier, the BOG is appointed by the NC Legislature. These guys tend to be lawyers, overwhelmingly. Lawyers attend law schools. How many law schools in the UNC system? Quick, name one!

    UNC-CH had a strangle hold on the creation of future political leadership in this state. That’s changing. (Primarily to a large influx of non-natives to NC.)

    The UNC BOG system is not a bad one, and there’s no way in H#!! the legislature will ever cede control of the UNC system to the UNC system – rightfully so. Simple fiduciary reposnsibility requires that NC taxpayer funded enterprises are firmly under control of the NC State government, which is accountable to the people of NC.

    The travesty is the disproportionate representation. And the legislature needs to be pressured to address that.

  22. Paramarine 11/16/2010 at 3:47 PM #

    I happen to agree with packplantpath’s proposal and also think that room needs to be left for non-unc system alums.

  23. greatballsoffire 11/16/2010 at 4:29 PM #

    Since the BOG are elected by the General Assembly, should we also examine how these “representatives” donated to the political campaigns of the prior NC Senate and House leadership (Basnight, Rand, Hackney, Black, Morgan, Perdue, etc)?

  24. Wufpacker 11/16/2010 at 4:59 PM #

    ^ Therein lies the problem. It’s no secret that having a curriculum that is strong in the liberal arts will create more politician types (read “blowhards”). As 89BSBA points out, a law school is even more likely to create this sort of inclination. (No offense GAWolf, or any other reasonable legal types on the blog).

    Grads from schools like State, on the other hand, actually have real world skills and can actually do something, not just observe (maybe) and tell other folks what THEY should be doing.

  25. rtpack24 11/16/2010 at 5:00 PM #

    NCStatePride that is good work and well done.

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