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Lawmakers to UNC system: Bring more conservative voices to campus, keep cutting administration costs

The UNC Board of Governors heard from several top lawmakers Thursday as part of an attempt by the system’s governing board to improve relations with the elected officials that fund them.

So, what advice did they get?

Bring more conservative voices to campuses, keep cutting administrative costs and, when you are asking for more funding, make your case quickly and clearly.

Republican state Reps. John Bell, Tim Moore of Kings Mountain, and Nelson Dollar of Wake County spoke Thursday afternoon with members of the UNC Board of Governor’s public affairs committee.

Dollar, the top budget writer in the House, said in his opening remarks that he and many of his Republican colleagues want to see conservative voices welcomed on the 17 campuses that are part of the UNC system.

“We want to make sure that diversity on campuses means among other things … that more conservative voices have a hearing as well and (are as) welcome at the campuses,” Dollar said.

The conversation Thursday comes as the UNC is preparing its budget requests for the next two years, which the state legislature will take up in its long session beginning in January. Though it avoided significant cuts for this year, public colleges and universities in the state have weathered deep cuts in prior years that trimmed nearly a half-billion dollars in 2011.

Bell, who is finishing his first term, said he hears from constituents and others who think the university system is still too top-heavy.

“Let’s start streamlining some of this bloated administration,” he said, adding that he think there are too many academic centers at various university campuses.

Bell has been critical of the former UNC-Wilmington chancellor and how the university handled an underage drinking investigation that led to a 2012 suspension of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. An alumnus of the fraternity, Bell sponsored successful legislation related to the incident that allows students to have legal counsel in disciplinary proceedings.

Moore, the chair of the powerful House Rules committee who served on the board of governors from 1997 to 2001, said new members to the N.C. General Assembly don’t always understand how big a piece the university system is to the state’s economy, and colleges needs to do a better job of explaining that.

He also said he’s had more dialog with the current board of governors about the university system’s needs than those in the past. The board of governors is now dominated by appointees from Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican legislative leaders.

“This board has been very engaged, very involved,” Moore said. “That is a welcome change.”

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