What requests does the Coalition for Carolina have for the UNC-CH Board of Trustees?

Our request to the Board of Trustees (BOT) is that they focus their actions on what is good for UNC-Chapel Hill.  Period.  When making decisions ask, “is this good for Carolina” instead of asking if it is what some legislator or Board of Governors (BOG) member wants.  

The BOT at each system institution is to be an advocate for that institution.  At Carolina this doesn’t seem to always be the case. Some of our trustees seem to want to be conduits of information going from the General Assembly (GA) or BOG to Carolina.  It should be reversed.  Take the interests of Carolina to the GA and BOG.   Be stronger and more forceful advocates for the things that Carolina needs to enhance and fulfill its opportunity and potential for the people of North Carolina.  Stop micromanaging into affairs that are delegated to university administrators and faculty.  Trust the people who have been chosen to lead UNC-CH and help make them succeed.   

This request is emphasized in this video from our co-founder Roger Perry.

“We would like them to be stronger and more forceful advocates for the things that Carolina needs to enhance and fulfill its opportunity and potential –whether that’s faculty compensation [or] the multifaceted issues of academic freedom and autonomy for the administration.  But also, to learn and become educated about the university and to get into a comfortable place in terms of leadership and…[whatever] they can provide that is of the greatest benefit.  

In addition to [being advocates, our governing bodies need to be]…counsel to the chancellor and provost, supportive and laudatory of the faculty, and engage the state in promoting the really enormous benefit that Carolina brings to the state.  Generally, [they should become] a more positive influence and put aside and…behind them  their partisan ideology and recognize that what Carolina is and what it does is… teach,…research, discovers,…and transmits knowledge, information, and benefit to the people.   And, it really isn’t, as often portrayed by some folks, the boogeyman of dark, deep, liberal ideology that some people fear.  It simply doesn’t happen.  There’s not enough time for that. Our faculty and students are engaged in so much more important, interesting and more vital [work].  …Close scrutiny tells you that that’s what goes on here and that’s what should go on here.  There should [be] a platform that makes that even easier to do.”

 

What can people do to support the Coalition for Carolina’s efforts?

“I think that there are a number of things that people can do to help in this effort. 

First and foremost is to join the coalition. Second is to use your power at the ballot box to support candidates who believe in the benefit of higher education…who understand the tremendous value of Carolina and the whole system. In addition to that,  spread the word locally among your friends, associates and colleagues to where they come to understand [what’s happening to Carolina] and become engaged…. 

If you get really passionate about it, run for office…and make a change yourself.   Also be willing to directly confront members of the boards and the legislature when you feel like they’re doing things that are harmful.”

What else you can do to make an impact:

Write, call and/or visit your representatives to tell them you need them to support Carolina!

Free Speech at UNC Reaffirmed

During our Dr. Lloyd Kramer spoke about the common good as it relates to faculty and tenure.  In making his point, he shared a warning and valuable historical insight into free speech and what happens when faculty is punished for speech.  Below are his comments: 

“One other point about the common good…and I’ll be historical about this. One of the most common characteristics of authoritarian societies is that when teachers, or faculty, go against some reigning ideological or political position they are dismissed they are removed–as we saw with the case of Professor Hedrick at UNC in 1856. He didn’t go along with slavery and he was fired…. Just as we don’t fire judges every year or say judges shouldn’t stay in their position, we assume that democracy–the functioning of our system—requires continuity and people who are in a long-term position. And, I’m not saying that tenured faculty are like judges, but they are in some sense in that they shouldn’t be vulnerable to every passing wind or current of political pressure economic downturn. So, the common good for the university as a whole and for the society [is a need to have]… independent creative people who are securely positioned. Both of these elements of the common good are served by a tenure system that also helps individuals have more stable lives and careers.”

On July 27, 2022 the Trustees passed two resolutions related to speech.  (Follow this link for a news story about the meeting and resolutions.) One of the resolutions affirmed what is known as the “Chicago Principles” outlined in the “Kalven report.” The Kalven report was created in 1967 at the University of Chicago when students were pressing the institution to take a stand on the Vietnam War.  The Kalven Report states in part that a university

 “is a community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives. It cannot insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy; if it takes collective action, therefore, it does so at the price of censuring any minority who do not agree with the view adopted. In brief, it is a community which cannot resort to majority vote to reach positions on public issues. The neutrality of the university as an institution arises then not from a lack of courage nor out of indifference and insensitivity. It arises out of respect for free inquiry and the obligation to cherish a diversity of viewpoints. And this neutrality as an institution has its complement in the fullest freedom for its faculty and students as individuals to participate in political action and social protest…the instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.”

The neutrality described in the Kalven report complements and reinforces the full freedom for faculty and students, as individuals, to participate in political action and social protest.  The report makes clear that “the instrument of dissent and criticism” is not the university, but the individual faculty member or the individual student, but also makes clear that the university is the “home and sponsor of critics”.  This is certainly reasonable and should not be threatening or limiting to individual free speech, academic freedom, or the free expression of faculty and students at UNC Chapel Hill.  

Here at the Coalition for Carolina we strongly affirm the democratic and academic value of free speech and are happy to report on an encouraging development from the UNC-CH Board of Trustees.

An Affordable Carolina For All

“Benefits of public institutions of higher education. The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.” (Article IX, Section 9 of the NC Constitution)

North Carolinians have the RIGHT to an affordable  higher education mandated by our state’s constitution. According to a report by LendEDU, over the past twenty years, the cost of college in the US has doubled and in some cases tripled.  The largest increase has been for those attending private schools or those who are out of state enrollees at public schools. This rapid increase in cost has far outstripped inflation which has recently been reported at a 40-year high.    

While the cost of college student debt has soared, so far, the state of North Carolina has weathered the storm and in 2020 ranked “19th in terms of lowest average debt per student with a figure of $26,866 — an increase of nearly 3% from the previous year.” About 57% of the NC’s 2019 college graduates reported having student debt. For that same year, Carolina reported average student loan debt of $22,466, and only 40% of our graduates with student loans.  

How does Carolina do it? The constitutional mandate has been upheld by visionary leaders like former UNC System President William C. “Bill” Friday who “famously called the University a “mighty engine,” driving opportunity, prosperity, invention, and innovation across the state.  Affordability is the fuel that gives this engine its horsepower, ensuring that all North Carolinians have the means to take advantage of the many higher education options across the state.”  Friday’s work was followed by President C.D. Spangler who worried that increasing tuition could result in “…an elitist university — an elitism of net worth, not brains.” Later, former President Erskine Bowles would promise to keep tuition in the wake of planned tuition increases from the then Board of Governors.

The efforts continue through the hard work of Carolina administrators, faculty, staff and alumni who’ve developed several laudable programs to lessen the cost of college to families.  A few examples:

  • Carolina Covenant: In 2003 and 2004 then Vice Provost and director of student aid Shirley Ort and Chancellor James Moeser launched Carolina Covenant to provide support to low-income students from households up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level so they could graduate free of debt.  These students comprise about 13% of each entering class.
  • The Red White and Blue Challenge: Carolina alumni Steve and Debbie Vetter of Greensboro committed $20 million for need-based aid to support students from military families—many of whom are first generation college enrollees. The goal is to double the total to $40 million.
  • Blue Sky Scholars: Former UNC System president Erskine Bowles helped launch this program to support “middle-income students who make up the majority of North Carolinians receiving need-based aid at Carolina.” 

These are exceptional efforts that deliver on the constitutional promise. The vision, unity, collaboration and generosity that keeps Carolina affordable IS the promise of Lux Libertas. We can maintain a high performing, affordable, accessible Carolina for all.  This is the spirit that the Coalition for Carolina seeks to preserve and protect.  Join us.

https://www.northcarolina.edu/impact/affordability-efficiency/

https://www.ncleg.gov/Laws/Constitution/Article9#

https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2020/08/21/heres-how-student-debt-in-n-c-compares-nationally.html

https://campaign.unc.edu/story/blue-sky-scholars/https://www.higheredworks.org/2022/01/campaign-for-carolina-reaches-4-25b-goal/

The Danger of Politicization and a Post Truth America

The Coalition for Carolina noted that there have been several incidents around the country where politics are being injected into public university governance.  We asked Dr. Holden Thorp for his opinion on what’s behind such incidents and here is his response:

“Well, we have a whole lot of incidents around the country of boards becoming more intrusive into higher education.  Mostly it relates to how conservative politics would prefer to see higher education carry out their work.   This really comes down to the fact that there has been–over the last 50 years or so–an effort by the political right to change facts when they need to change them to suit their political goals.”

We followed up and asked Dr. Thorp if such a high level of politicization concerns him and, if so, what potential impact does he see it having on the country.  His response:

“I’m very worried about this level of political interference–certainly at the red state public universities, but also for higher education as a whole. And, it [political interference] tends to spread into other areas….

For example; there’s a lot of focus right now on the interference into the honest teaching and studying of American history. The conservatives don’t want to be reminded that America–the America that we have today–started off with huge genocide of Native Americans.  And then, it was animated by slavery–both in the colonial times and through reconstruction, and all through the civil war…all the way to today.  

Now these things are easy to document.  We know that there were millions of Native Americans here when the white folks arrived. We know that slavery was here long before the American Revolution and that it was a factor, in multiple ways, in the Revolution itself. But yet folks don’t want to be reminded of this, or, they don’t want more people to understand it and so they’re trying to suppress it.  Well, it’s a straight line from there to suppressing evolution, and stem cell research, and all kinds of things in medicine, and changing the way we measure things about the world.

And so, universities are here for one purpose and one purpose only. That’s to seek the truth about history. The truth about identity.  The truth about social science. And also, the truth about the natural world and the universe and how everything functions and fits together.  And if we don’t have that honest description, we’re in big trouble because we got pandemics and climate change and all kinds of racism, sexism and homophobia. All kinds of things that can really damage humanity if we don’t have the truth to fall back on when we need to solve problems.”