NC Gov. Roy Cooper creates commission to ensure diversity for UNC system

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Tuesday, November 1, 2022
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The commission will assess the current appointment system of leaders in the UNC System and make recommendations to the governor on how it can be reformed.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper made an announcement Tuesday involving higher education in the state.

Cooper was joined by public higher education leaders for the announcement at the Executive Mansion in downtown Raleigh to announce changes to the public university system.

The governor said the system of appointing people to boards needs to properly reflect the state's demographics.

Through Executive Order 272, Cooper called for the formation of a commission on the future of public universities in the state. The bipartisan commission will be led by two former UNC-System presidents, Margaret Spellings and Tom Ross.

"The purpose of the commission is to preserve the undisputed excellence of our higher education system, to advise on how we adjust the university governance system to ensure diversity of race, geography, gender and political thought," Cooper said.

The commission will assess the current appointment system of public university governance and make recommendations to the governor on how it can be reformed and strengthened.

WATCH : Full press conference below

Members of the commission will come from varying backgrounds related to experience with the UNC System, general experience with higher education governance, and experience with higher education best practices.

"It is so important for us to keep our diversity, not just racial diversity, but gender, geography, ethnicity, and political thought," Cooper said. "It's clearly important that the leadership reflects that. Right now, it does not. and although there are positive things going on at our university, erode can and will occur if we don't make steps towards reform now."

The executive order requires commissioners to deliver a report no later than eight months from the order's signing.

Some students and faculty called for more diversity in the UNC system.

"The sense that everyone has a stake, everyone has a voice," said UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member Meta Duewa Jones.

Jones said future changes could help restore trust at UNC, which was embroiled in a tenure battle with journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones that ultimately resulted in a settlement.

"There is such a thing called 'embodied knowledge,' so if we have a board that does not reflect the body of the university fully, then that means there's aspect of knowledge..whether it's scholarly, whether it's research, whether it's student-body experiences, whether staff or community at UNC or other universities, it means that we're missing perspectives that are valuable to have," Meta Duewa Jones said.

Cooper wants to present the commission's findings to the general assembly before it adjourns in 2023.