The Year in Review (and Wishes for a Better 2022!)

We hope that all of you are enjoying this holiday season and are able to relax and connect with family and friends. As 2021 winds down, we’re reflecting on a year of challenges that our beloved Carolina has faced. 

Like other universities, public and private, Carolina faced challenges trying to strike the right balance when dealing with the current Covid-19 pandemic.  But unlike many other universities, Carolina was forced to manage the pandemic at a time when governing bodies and political leaders are getting more and more involved in daily operations.  

The Daily Tarheel provided a 2021 recap entitled Breaking down UNC Board of Trustees and Board of Governors decisions this year. NC Policy Watch titled its annual recap; Year in review: In higher ed, higher stakes as the UNC system becomes more politicized.  Putting these two titles together, decisions by the UNC Board of Trustees and Board of Governors as the UNC system becomes more politicized had a huge impact on Carolina in 2021.  

While an agreement with N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans and the bungled handling of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenure case received lots of publicity; several other problematic instances took place during the year.  We highlighted several of them in our post entitled Chaos in the UNC System as Appointees Reject Shared Governance. A few of the more concerning issues are:

To add to these concerns, voices are being silenced.  UNC Chapel Hill leaders were excluded from Board of Trustees meetings after speaking up about some of the controversies.  When they were reinvited to the meetings their speaking time was cut by 2/3rds. And, after all of the above, the board of trustees closed out the year by, allegedly, pressuring the chancellor to choose a specific person to fill the provost position.  

This is a difficult time for Carolina and it is taking its toll.  We note the exodus of top leaders across the University. We also note that over the past 10 years UNC-CH faculty salaries have not kept pace with peers. Lagging behind peer schools means the University risks losing more leading professors and researchers to these peers and to others. 

While 2021 was plagued by a series of attention grabbing, bad headlines, there was some good news. We celebrate the unveiling of a new gene editing center that’s spurring discovery in the life sciences, a  $24 million NIH grant for genomic and precision medicine, and a 3D vaccine patch pioneered by UNC researchers that has the potential to revolutionize vaccine distribution. Dr. Ralph Baric, a scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, was named the 2021 Tar Heel of the year by the News and Observer for his contribution to developing the Moderna vaccine and treatments for COVID-19 like Remdesevir.  We also saw enrollment climb and reach record highs for the fourth year in a row and are proud that UNC Chapel Hill remains among the top five public universities in the nation

As we look forward to 2022, we will fight for a return to the shared governance model that has served the university so well for generations.  Most importantly, we will continue to shed light on issues that can harm Carolina if not addressed.  We are grateful for your continued support. Please invite your friends and family to join our cause in 2022.

A Holiday Message: Appreciating Carolina’s Greatness

Greetings Coalition of Carolina supporters,

We would like to thank you for joining our coalition to support and defend Carolina from partisan interference. As we rededicate ourselves to the University’s promise of Lux Libertas—light and liberty—and the principles of open inquiry, free speech, equity and inclusion, we want to take a moment to reflect on why we love The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This is the first of our regular newsletters and, starting today, you will be receiving regular updates from us shining a light on situations that are important to Carolina’s continued success. We want to hear from you too. Please give us feedback and share our work with your friends who care about Carolina. On our contact page, you can submit a post of up to 300 words and request that we republish it on our website or in our future newsletters. For this first newsletter, we wanted to celebrate the holidays by visiting some of the positive reasons why it is important to protect the university we love.

Many know UNC-Chapel Hill as the home of champions like Dean Smith, Anson Dorrance, Jenny Levy, and hundreds of world-class athletes who have graced our fields, tracks, and courts across men’s and women’s sports. We also know that Carolina is a standard of excellence in academics, research, and teaching, not just in our state and region, but nationally and internationally. Carolina is an environment brimming with intelligence, drive, and innovation. The holidays are a time of joy and gratitude, and as we celebrate the holidays, we also recognize everything about Carolina that inspires us to protect this incredible institution.

There’s a good reason Carolina is revered, ranked a top 5 public university and one of the top 50 universities in the world. But it’s so much more than that. Carolina doesn’t just offer high academic prestige at a relatively low cost with top-ranking business, media and journalism, and public health schools. It’s also a breakthrough research institution with a richly diverse community.

The 11th largest research university in the U.S. and the 6th in the U.S. for federal research funding, Carolina set a record last year in funding, receiving more than $1 billion in federal, nonprofit, and industrial research awards, grants, and contracts. These awards sponsor research that spans health, environmental, and social sciences. From cures and treatments of diseases such as cancer and COVID-19 to clean water, criminal justice reform, and new technologies.

Research at UNC is groundbreaking and forward-thinking, always focused on furthering the good of humanity. Carolina’s community of students and staff bolster one another at every turn. Professors bring to the classroom extraordinary expertise, innovation, and genuine investment into students’ success, strengthening their future careers by challenging them in a diverse array of settings.

Teaching at Carolina takes passion and commitment. The student-faculty ratio is 15:1, and about 46% of classes have fewer than 20 students. Classes prioritize innovating experiential learning opportunities with new technologies, interactive engagement of students, and creative assessment methods. Faculty and alumni include 9 Nobel Prize laureates, 23 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 51 Rhodes Scholars.

We build leaders at Carolina, from dozens of Congressional representatives, senators, and governors to hundreds of CEOs, nonprofit executives, and clergy. Our stars also shine brightly in a variety of arts and entertainment fields, a constellation of actors, novelists, playwrights, and artists.

The supportive nature of UNC-Chapel Hill’s community doesn’t end when students graduate. Carolina’s alumni network offers extensive networking opportunities. School spirit means Tar Heels are often ready to help one another out, providing career advice and important professional connections. And with 349,000 alumni and counting, the possibilities are endless.

There’s no shortage of school spirit at Carolina. It’s this spirit that drives us to ensure community members’ loyalty continues to be earned at every level, without compromising integral Carolina values like empathy, freedom of speech, and equity. As members of the Carolina community, we know we deserve a school that makes us proud — and we’re here to ensure it does.

It’s helpful to remember what we’re fighting for here. UNC is no ordinary university, and it never has been. Our mission is to make sure Carolina never falls from the heights climbed by thousands of faculty, students, staff, administrators, and alumni since 1789.

From all of us at the Coalition for Carolina, here’s to a joyous holiday season and a happy Tar Heel Blue 2022.

Photo credit: Jill Lang, iStock

UNC-CH Faculty Salaries Have Not Kept Pace with Peers

Many of us have heard the saying, “you get what you pay for.” In the case of our esteemed faculty at UNC Chapel Hill, does a decade of flagging salaries foreshadow a future inability to attract and retain top talent? 

The numbers aren’t trending in the right direction.

Data from The Chronicle of Higher Education database comparing UNC Chapel Hill faculty salaries to faculty at peer schools indicates that between 2008 and 2018 average salaries for full-time and associate professors at peer schools rose more than 30%, but Carolina salaries rose less than 15%.  As a result, Carolina has slipped from ranking in the middle to near the bottom. We need competitive compensation to compete for the best and brightest talent. 

UNC-CH Faculty Salaries Vs Peers from Chronicle for Higher Education database
UNC-CH Faculty salaries versus peers

In 2008, Carolina ranked in the middle of the pack with an average salary of $142,750 for full-time professors, and $94,074 for associate professors. At that time, Carolina salaries were competitive with other respected public universities and even with elite private universities like Washington University in St. Louis, and our neighbor north of 15-501, Duke. By 2018, Carolina dropped to the bottom just above the University of Florida and University of Wisconsin both of which have been impacted by “reforms” from political leaders.  Carolina is feeling the impact as questions of transparency, academic freedom and political influence engulf UNC, causing concern among many about its future as North Carolina’s flagship public university.”

There’s still time to change the trajectory. Carolina currently has one of the most distinguished faculties in the world and is consistently placed at the top in all major college ranking surveys. From researchers in the cutting edge of their fields to world-renowned teaching professors, we believe that the UNC faculty is unmatched by peer schools. So let’s just do the right thing and pay them competitively. The recently passed budget with 5% raises is a start, but more needs to be done. 

UNC-CH faculty salary rank vs peers 2008 vs 2018
UNC-CH faculty salary ranking vs peers 2008 vs 2018

If this pay gap continues, will UNC eventually  find itself at the very bottom of its peer group? Or worse still, will our flagship recede from the peer group altogether, withdrawing from its traditional standing as one of the nation’s truly excellent public universities?

If Carolina is to continue to attract and retain top academic talent, governing bodies must provide competitive salaries and reasonable increases year-over-year. Lagging behind peer schools means the University risks losing leading professors and researchers to these peers and to others. As difficult as it may be to discuss, The Coalition for Carolina is determined to shed light on issues that can harm Carolina if not addressed.  Paying our esteemed faculty competitively is one of those issues.  If you believe that the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees should act expeditiously to address this or other matters, join our nonpartisan coalition of concerned alumni, faculty, staff, students, and allies.

Photo credit: Christina @, Unsplash

About That Planned UNC System HQ Move

The content that follows is reposted with permission from the author, Dr. Art Padilla.

Without much discussion, even within the UNC Board of Governors itself, the NC Legislature seems intent on moving the headquarters of the 17-campus University of North Carolina from where it has resided for the last half century, Chapel Hill. The idea is to relocate it to downtown Raleigh among various state agencies such as the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice and the Utilities Commission. Several millions of dollars for the move have been reportedly earmarked already.

Among the stated reasons for the move are the supposed synergies that the UNC system would develop by being a few miles closer to the Raleigh government bureaus and agencies. These vital collaborations are somehow stymied by the 25 miles that now separate the UNC headquarters from downtown Raleigh.

Ostensibly, another reason for the move is that the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, which is one mile uphill from the UNC headquarters, benefits from the system’s presence in its neighborhood. This rationale also seems implausible on several levels. UNC-Chapel Hill is one of the best universities in the world because of its notable faculty and superb students, not because the system’s headquarters are in Chapel Hill’s outskirts. Ironically, UNC basketball legend Dean Smith once visited the NC legislature to request they change the system’s name because “UNC” belonged to the Chapel Hill campus and because it was confusing. There have apparently never been many fans of the system headquarters on the Chapel Hill campus.

The move appears to be about politics and control and not about vaguely described synergies.

My first staff meeting in the President’s Office was nearly 50 years ago, a few weeks after the system’s establishment. UNC President William Friday had asked Arnold King, a vice president emeritus of the former six-campus Consolidated University and UNC-CH professor, to address the group. Dr. King was renown as one of Chapel Hill’s wittiest storytellers. He could enthrall an audience with poetic description of Chapel Hill’s “five great springs,” as he called them, including the one in the basement of Wilson Library that required a sump pump to drain the water and a second one under Kenan Stadium with its gigantic culverts under the football field that the Secret Service inspected before President Kennedy’s visit in 1961.

He began in his inimitable professorial cadence, adorned by the accent of his native Asheville: “The name, the legal name, of this organization is The University of North Carolina. It is not the Consolidated University. It is not the UNC system. It is not the NC Board of Higher Education. It is The University of North Carolina.”

Despite Professor King’s charm, his comments seemed obvious and redundant. As I later came to appreciate, however, Dr. King’s message was central to President Friday’s philosophy about institutional freedom and independence. We were not, Dr. King continued, another state agency. We were a university, an integral part of this new 16-campus family. Our very small senior staff in 1972 was largely drawn from professorial and administrative ranks of the various campuses. As Mr. Friday was wont to say, the university was of the political process, but it was not in politics. In part, it is why we insisted that individual campuses not pressure the Legislature on their own.

The university remains one of the few places on earth where one may think critically about the world and where young people are prepared to shape its future. Its most important elements–teaching and research–are its fastest changing as well as its least visible and understood from the outside. These purposes are propelled by a faculty guild that autonomously oversees educational processes, by a group of specialists who direct the discipline of their own performance. At times, the university’s most important obligation to the society that nurtures it might be to refuse to do what that society wants. This has worked well for literally centuries, but it requires freedom and it can also aggravate a lot of folks.

It’s easy to get carried away and glamorize the past. We made our share of mistakes when it was our turn, when we were entrusted the honor of guiding the university, but President Friday embodied this philosophy of institutional autonomy. He refused pay hikes that would make him higher paid than the Governor, declined every invitation to serve on private and corporate boards, and rebuffed myriad opportunities to run for public office. When he defended the university against Federal over-reach or resisted external attempts to dictate educational direction, it was always to protect the independence of the university and its faculty. The university–and to a significant extent, the North Carolina–of yesterday, the one of the 1950s and 1960s, had a lot to do with Frank Porter Graham and his team from the 1940s; the one we see today has to do with Bill Friday and his. What will tomorrow’s look like?

Some cynics suggest that this is about conservative ideologues intent on reining in the PC “tenured radicals” who corrupt our young people in the classrooms. Some may think the university should be treated like another state agency. And yet others may feel that the staff has outgrown its buildings, though a solution here might be to explore ways to reduce the staff rather than to find new spaces. But we should also listen to Mr. Friday himself before we disrupt lives and spend millions:

No society can survive without an institution at its heart dealing with values, teaching the importance of history, and revealing the relationship between man and nature. It’s there, in the beating, human heart of the university where you get sustenance for the soul, where you find out what’s making your heart sing, where you are motivated to go against the odds to do something.

It doesn’t sound like your typical government agency.

Dr. Art Padilla is an award winning professor who has taught at UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, and University
of Arizona. His blog can be found at

Photo credit: Elijah Mears, Unsplash

Chaos in the UNC System as Appointees Reject Shared Governance

Since pushing out Tom Ross as President in 2015, the UNC System and member universities have experienced ongoing chaos.  The source of the chaos can often be traced back to actions by governing bodies whose members are selected by state legislators. 

Incidences of governance driven chaos includes, but are not limited to: 

Note: BOG = UNC System Board of Governors, BOT = UNC-CH Board of Trustees

In addition to these instances, we’ve recently learned that the UNCW Chancellor search is proceeding in concerning ways.  Apparently, the search committee has, unusually, decided not to hire a search firm. Some familiar with the situation describe the search process as “proceeding strangely”.  (Here is a link to a post describing the unique way the BOG managed to install one of its own as Chancellor of Fayetteville State University.)  Additionally, a 2020 policy change by President Hans now enables him to add two names to the search process and requires that one of his selections be included among the finalists.   We hope that the search process in Wilmington will not result in even more chaos.

What the aforementioned chaotic incidents have in common is a tendency for NC higher education governing bodies to assert their will over those in positions of leadership, in the faculty, and on the staff at our public universities. Before this governance driven chaos, which threatens the shared governance model that has served our Universities so well, there was no glaring, urgent problem in NC public higher education that required the kind of activist intervention we are experiencing. North Carolina has one of the most respected public higher education systems in the world and at the top of that list is Carolina.  Carolina is the nation’s oldest public university, graduates excellent, well-prepared students, and consistently ranks high in all the college ranking surveys.  For decades the faculty and staff have delivered excellence under the shared governance model.  Now a group of legislatively appointed trustees and Board of Governors members want to change that.  To what end? 

Photo credit: Brett Jordan of Unsplash