Democrats in the State House are crying foul over the way the new majority in the legislature has appointed new members to the UNC system's Board of Governors.
House Republicans elected a new slate of eight members to the governing board Tuesday amid a protest from Democrats claiming the process was corrupt.
As Jane Stancill reports today, the 16 new members of the 32-member board include 13 white men, 2 white women and 1 man of Indian descent.
Seeing no need to cast votes that wouldn't matter, House Democrats turned in blank ballots and later voted "no" on a roll call vote on the list approved by Republicans.
Since members of the UNC board are political appointees, the majority power always has the option of stacking the deck to its liking.
But as we reported last week, previous legislatures have kept some level of gender and racial diversity on the board.
The board is now clearly far more conservative than it has been in prior years. But as newly re-elected board member Brent Barringer points out in today's story, the board has traditionally not operated in a particularly ideological or political manner.
By that, I mean that in discussions of higher education issues - tuition increases, approval of academic programs, the hiring of chancellors - the board very rarely divides along party lines.
In fact, there have been very few contentious, split votes in recent memory.
Perhaps that will change. We'll see.
While the legislature has now made its 16 appointments, not all members will be new. There are several re-appointments, including Peter Hans and Ann Goodnight on the Senate side, and Barringer and Leroy Lail on the House side. Those members have experience with board issues and are up to date on the UNC system's ongoing struggles with budget cuts, clearly the top issue facing the university right now.
Two more of the new appointees are prior members - John Fennebresque and H. Frank Grainger. So it's not all new blood.
Still, there will be challenges. When the new members take their seats on the board later this year, the budget situation may still be unclear. And the UNC President, Tom Ross, is new in his role as well, having taken over at the start of the year for Erskine Bowles, who retired after a five-year run.
Here's the slate appointed by the House this week:
Brent Barringer, a Cary lawyer (re-elected)
Leroy Lail, a Conover businessman (re-elected)
Mary Ann Maxwell, a Goldsboro business owner
Ed McMahan, a Charlotte businessman and former state legislator
Hari Nath, a Cary information technology consultant
David Powers, of Winston-Salem, a vice president with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Richard Taylor, a Lumberton insurance, real estate and auto dealer
Raiford Trask III, a Wilmington developer