Monday numbers: Diversity, appointments and the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees

As UNC-Chapel Hill and the UNC System wrestle with diversity issues, a look at the flagship university’s governing board

By: - August 28, 2023 6:00 am
Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Photo: Clayton Henkel)

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision against the consideration of race in admissions at UNC-Chapel Hill and Harvard University, the campus and UNC System level governing boards have wrestled with the issue of racial diversity — its value in higher education, and how and whether to pursue it.

Last month, the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees debated and ultimately passed a resolution that even some board members say goes well beyond the fairly narrow Supreme Court decision.

The university “shall not establish through application essays or other means” any proxies “premised upon race-based preferences in hiring or admissions,” the resolution read. “If the University considers the personal experience of applicants for admission, each applicant must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual – not on the basis of race.”

Board member John Preyer not only argued in favor of the resolution, but pointed to the Supreme Court decision as proof that the university’s decades-long practice of diversifying its student body through consideration of race in admissions was always wrong. Board member Ralph Meekins argued the resolution went too far and could cause new legal problems for a university trying to avoid them with new resolutions and policy changes in the wake of the decision.

This month, the greater UNC system issued its own directives to all system campuses in reaction to the decision, some of which critics and constitutional law experts say go beyond what is necessary and put the system firmly on the side of conservative political activists in an ongoing fight over the question of diversity on America’s campuses.

These debates, directives and policy decisions are being made on governing boards that themselves fall woefully short of representing the actual racial diversity of the campuses they represent. With new political appointees named this month and joining the board in their first meeting in September, UNC-Chapel Hill’s board of trustees now features even fewer non-white members than in its previous configuration.

Today, a by-the-numbers look at the new UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and the campus it represents.

(Sources: Enrollment and board data from UNC-Chapel Hill and the UNC System)

13 – the number of members on the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees

Twelve of these members are political appointees. The UNC System Board of Governors, whose members are themselves chosen by the General Assembly’s Republican majority, nominates four members to each campus board in odd-numbered years. The House Speaker and President Pro Tem of the Senate each appoint two members to each board in odd- numbered years. The student body president on each campus also serves on the board of trustees as an ex officio member.

The governor once appointed some trustees at individual UNC System campuses, but the legislature stripped the office of that power in 2016 when Roy Cooper, a Democrat, unseated Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

Recent legislation seeks to expand the boards of trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University to 15 members, giving the legislature two more appointments on each board. Gov. Cooper vetoed that bill last week, setting up a potential override vote and the possibility of a court battle.

2 – Number of women among the 12 appointees on the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees; that number is unchanged from the board’s previous configuration

17 – Approximate percentage of the board those women represent

60 – Approximate percentage of the UNC-Chapel Hill student body who are women, according to spring 2023 enrollment data 

2 – Number of non-white appointed members of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees; that’s one fewer than in the board’s last configuration

Board member Malcolm Turner is Black and board member Vinay Patel is Indian-American. The current student body president, who serves as an ex-officio member of the board, is also Black.

45 — Approximate percentage of the UNC-Chapel Hill student body who are non-white, according to spring 2023 enrollment data 

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Joe Killian
Joe Killian

Investigative Reporter Joe Killian's work examines government, politics and policy, with a special emphasis on higher education, LGBTQ issues and extremism.