NC Republicans Eye Community College Board As New Power Grab

Source: News & Observer

Since taking over the North Carolina House and Senate a decade ago, Republican state lawmakers have repeatedly used the UNC Board of Governors as an extension of their political influence across the state’s 16-university system. With Senate Bill 256, state Republicans are once again attempting to take control of community colleges.

Passed two weeks ago, Senate Bill 256 would take power from the governor to appoint seats on a community college board in Rockingham County, and give it to the House and Senate’s top elected officials.

This bill is the latest in a series of power grab moves by Republican leaders.

“To rip away this connection and input from the Governor’s Office will hurt Rockingham Community College in the long run, regardless of who the Governor or the Senator representing Rockingham County may be,” stated Jordan Monaghan, Spokesman for Governor Roy Cooper, in an interview with The News & Observer. 

Historically, state Republicans have appointed seats with political intentions on boards such as the UNC Board of Governors.

In 2016, state Republicans passed a bill that eliminated the governor’s power to appoint members to the UNC Board of Trustees. Since its passage, every person who serves on the Board of Governors or the Board of Trustees is either directly or indirectly appointed by the Republican-led legislature.

With Republican oversight, faculty and students have complained about the frequent political meddling for years and the lack of diversity on the board – which has been overwhelmingly white, male and Republican.

“This is a diverse state, but we don’t have a diverse Board (of Governors),” wrote former UNC Board Chair Lou Bissette. “A governing board should reflect the interests of the people it represents. Geographically and demographically, it should look like our student body and the people of our state. That’s how we make sure all voices are heard, and our policies are broadly supported and sustainable.”

According to The News & Observer, former Republican legislators, GOP party leaders and lobbyists have all held seats on the UNC Board of Governors or Board of Trustees.  Coincidently, many of these appointees have also donated big bucks to Republican candidates, including to Berger himself.

“They are damaging what is really a leading university system across this country,” stated Sen. Gladys Robinson, a Guilford County Democrat and a former member of the UNC Board of Governors, in an interview with The News & Observer. “I have been proud of it, and they are really destroying it.”

With Senate Bill 256, Republicans are once again attempting to push their own political agenda and gain political control over the governor; this time at the expense of community college students and faculty.

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