An open letter to Margaret Spellings and Tom Ross

An open letter to Margaret Spellings and Tom Ross
Governor Cooper’s newly-formed commission on governance has gotten the attention of Dr. Timothy Kaufman-Osborn.  He submitted an open letter to NC Policy Watch’s The Pulse blog urging co-chairs Spellings and Ross to recommend a dramatic overhaul of UNC System governance.  We view the commission’s work as very important and reached out to Dr. Kaufman-Osborn for permission to share his open letter, in entirety, with you and that permission was granted. We thank Dr. Kaufman-Osborn for the opportunity to share this important perspective.

An Open Letter to Margaret Spellings and Tom Ross
Congratulations on your appointment as co-chairs of the newly-formed Commission on the Future of Public Universities in North Carolina. Governor Cooper’s executive order charges you with evaluating the governance structure of the University of North Carolina system and making recommendations for its improvement. I write now to urge you to consider this charge an invitation to consider a fundamental question that is often left unasked but should in fact inform every inquiry into how higher education is to be governed: Given the mission of our public universities, what form of rule will best facilitate that end’s accomplishment? 

The governor’s concern with UNC’s governance came as no surprise, I trust, since both of you served (only to resign under duress) as that system’s president. Each of you, moreover, knows all too well the recent fiascos that have bedeviled UNC, including but hardly limited to the botched tenure bid of Nikole Hannah- Jones and disposition of the Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam.” These embarrassments have sullied UNC’s reputation and sapped the morale of those whose statutorily-prescribed mission is “to discover, create, transmit, and apply knowledge to address the needs of individuals and society,” whether through teaching, research, or public service.

Nor did it surprise you, I’m sure, that Governor Cooper blamed North Carolina’s Republican legislators for the “undue political influence and bureaucratic meddling” that now afflicts UNC’s governance. For over half a century, all members of UNC statewide board of governors have been appointed by the General Assembly. Since 2016, moreover, the trustees of each university within the UNC system have been selected in part by the state’s senate and house of representatives and in part by the board of governors whose members are appointed by those same elected officers. UNC’s subordination to partisan purposes is thereby structurally enabled, as is its domination by what Cooper opaquely characterized as a “singularity of political thought” but more candidly might be labeled a right-wing political agenda bent on bringing UNC to heel. Insofar as this campaign succeeds, UNC loses its capacity to sustain the free inquiry that is an indispensable condition of its mission’s fulfillment. Resecuring the university’s autonomy must therefore be a central objective of the commission’s work. 

To achieve that end, the governor has suggested that the commission might consider recommending that members of the minority party be permitted to appoint several governing board members or, alternatively, that a few “education leaders” might be seated on that body. Mere tinkering with the method of appointing the board’s members, however, will not meet the challenge at hand. What these incremental proposals neglect is the internal organization of UNC’s rule in autocratic form. Because that constitution of power is itself at odds with fulfillment of the university’s mission, it too must be placed on your agenda. 

UNC’s current governance system represents the worst of all possible worlds. Members of the board of governors, according to state statute, are to be selected on the basis of “their ability to further the educational mission of The University through their knowledge and understanding of the educational needs and desires of all the State’s citizens.” In fact, however, governors are now selected by the General Assembly to promote the parochial interests of the party in power and, once in office, are given virtually unlimited authority to do so. 

The scope of that authority is a function of the board of governors’ constitution as a “body politic and corporate” that is granted sole responsibility “for the general determination, control, supervision, management and governance of all affairs” of the UNC system as well as the full panoply of powers necessary to execute that rule. Lest there be any doubt about this power’s extent, the Policy Manual and Code adopted by the board of governors affirms its exclusive authority to adopt any “policies and regulations as it may deem wise,” subject only to the proviso that they not contravene state law. The board, moreover, is authorized to amend or suspend any provision of the manual itself, thereby enabling it to modify its own policies but also the procedures by which those policies are made. 

True, the board has elected to cede certain “duties and powers” to the trustees of each individual campus just as it has delegated certain tasks to the system president as well as the chancellors of specific universities. Yet the board of governors also asserts its unilateral right to rescind any powers delegated to others and so, in the last analysis, these subordinate officers remain just that.

About the class of employees designated as faculty, the manual authorizes each campus to create a Faculty Council or Senate but is quick to note that the only role of these bodies is to “advise the chancellor on any matters pertaining to the institution that are of interest and concern to the faculty” (emphasis added). About the class we call staff, the manual says virtually nothing, which is not surprising given that these at-will employees are effectively irrelevant when it comes to UNC’s governance. Rightly understood, in short, faculty and staff alike are subjects of an incorporated “body politic” ruled by outsiders selected by and beholden to other outsiders; and that constitution of rule is more akin to an imperial relationship than one befitting a nation built on a revolutionary rejection of English absolutism and endorsement of the principles of republicanism.

An alternative to UNC’s autocratic corporate constitution is readily available within the state’s statutory code, and I offer it for the commission’s consideration. Like other states, North Carolina law distinguishes between membership and non-membership corporations. UNC is an example of the latter insofar as its board of directors rules over those who are not members but, rather, employees bound by contract. Within a membership corporation, by way of contrast, those who are now employees become members who, as such, are granted certain essentially political rights to participate in its governance. Although these rights vary depending on the specific terms of a membership corporation’s articles and bylaws, they typically include the right to elect and remove governing board members; to adopt, amend, or rescind the rules that regulate this corporation’s internal affairs; and to debate and resolve matters of collective concern at regular membership meetings. 

Within this corporate form, members exercise the powers of self-rule that, today, are monopolized at UNC by a governing board defined by its unaccountability to those it commands. Within a membership corporation, moreover, unless its articles of incorporation or bylaws distinguish between different classes of members, state law requires that all “shall have the same designations, qualifications, rights, and obligations” and, furthermore, that “each member is entitled to one vote on each matter voted on by the members.” The hierarchical and authoritarian structure of power that now characterizes UNC is thereby replaced by an egalitarian and democratic constitution that complements rather than contradicts the core tenets of the Republic to which it belongs. 

Reconstitution of UNC as a membership corporation will advance the system’s autonomy and hence its capacity to sustain the academy’s status as a home to free inquiry. This corporate form is better equipped to do so precisely because it does not place ultimate authority in the hands of an external board whose appointees rarely understand the distinctive purposes and practices of higher education and, too often today, are so many hacks bent on enacting the anti-academic agendas of red state legislatures. Governing board members selected by and hence beholden to a corporation’s members are far more likely to remain fiduciaries in the true sense of that term, i.e., custodians who understand that fulfillment of the university’s mission requires the institutional independence that is a prerequisite of its work. 

To offer this recommendation is not to say that the academy should be organized in strict conformity to the practices that define democratic rule. The scholarly community is not composed of so many equal citizens whose differences on specifically intellectual matters are to be resolved by tallying votes. But it is to say that, like a democracy, the university is predicated on an ideal of a self-governing community; and it is to say that the end of free inquiry cannot be realized so long as the power to regulate that community’s affairs is monopolized by a head that remains sundered from the body it superintends.

In closing, let’s be realistic: Any recommendations advanced by the Commission on the Future of Public Universities are almost certainly doomed from the get-go. No matter how bipartisan its composition, so long as the Republican Party remains in control of North Carolina’s legislature, proposals to modify the appointment process for the board of governors will not fly: “There is no interest in changing the structure of the UNC system,” declared a spokesperson for the house speaker, “regardless of whatever report this politically-motivated commission produces.” 

Given this unfortunate truth, how might North Carolina’s Commission on the Future of Public Universities most productively spend the eight months before its final report is due? In accepting the governor’s appointment, one of you rightly affirmed that “people need to be able to feel that they are represented in this enterprise. That sadly is not the case at the moment.” That trust might be partly restored by adopting piecemeal reforms that encourage creation of a less partisan and more diverse board of governors. This accomplishment will remain stunted, however, until those now ruled as subjects in the guise of employees are genuinely “represented in this enterprise,” and that requires structural changes that, happily, are already available in current law. If nothing else, should you reopen the question of UNC’s corporate identity, you will initiate a much-needed conversation about the form of rule that is best suited to further the university’s unique mission. 

Higher Ed Funding, Paul Fulton, and The Cooper Commission

Paul Fulton

Huge congratulations to Coalition for Carolina advisor Paul Fulton! 

Paul, former dean of the Kenan Flagler business school and NC business executive, is a tireless advocate for North Carolina public education.  He was recently honored by theNorth Carolina Society of New York at its annual Dinner Dance.

Since 1947, the Society has recognized 79 honorees, including John Motley Morehead III, John M. Belk, Dean E. Smith, Richard Hampton Jenrette, Julian and Josie Robertson, Gov. James Baxter Hunt, Jr., Dr. James and Ann Goodnight, and Thomas W. Ross.

Below is a video of Paul’s remarks.  This video was submitted by an attendee at the event. If it is difficult to hear what Paul is saying, please follow this link to read Paul’s full remarks.

Funding Higher Education

The funding of public higher education is facing challenges around the country.  In a recent post, we celebrated Carolina’s milestone achievement in raising private funds to support the university and noted that such “once in a generation” funding is no substitute for state funding. This thinking is underscored in a Chronicle for Higher Education opinion piece written by James Nguyen H. Spencer. He considers the importance of funding and investing in our youth and discusses the importance of public higher education as a public good.  Spencer goes on to

 point out how public higher education is facing funding challenges across the country and proposes a novel solution that would enable us to invest in our young people’s education, address current funding challenges, and realize a favorable return on the investment.

From the article:

 “In years past, public-college tuition was kept very low by state investment in public universities. But today, levels of investment have in many cases dropped from about half of a university’s budget to less than 10 percent. In some states, these aggregate reductions have been mitigated by the creation of state programs funding individual tuition support for residents, as in South Carolina and Louisiana, yet it’s still clear that states will no longer be the primary source of public-university support.

Financing an equitable higher education can be done: The U.S. has near-universal water supplies, transportation, and electricity for even its poorest residents. What would happen if we applied the same principles to the public goods that universities provide?

This could be done with the financial support of state-supported bond programs — or less preferably through the private capital markets (after all, student debt is a $1.5-trillion market), like most conventional forms of infrastructure. Upon graduation, a graduate would be asked to pay a small percentage of income back to the university for the duration of the graduate’s career — let’s say 3 percent to 5 percent. The graduates who become millionaires will financially outweigh those who drop out of the labor market. This mechanism should ensure that the monthly costs aren’t too burdensome.

The economic fundamentals of “investing” in our young people in this way are solid.”

Read more here: https://www.chronicle.com/article/higher-ed-is-a-public-good-lets-fund-it-like-one

Support for The Governance Commission

The Winston-Salem Journal has published an opinion piece in support of Governor Cooper’s commission on university governance.  They view the new commission as “a necessary first step to protect taxpayers’ investment in our university system and to right a ship that has listed starboard. We’ll watch for their recommendations with interest — and with hope that the legislature will be persuaded to take their recommendations seriously.”  

In supporting the commission, the Journal highlights some of the problems that have arisen as a result of one political party having “a lock on the UNC System”. They cite incidences where lawmakers used their power “at times to turn students into political pawns, as in the era of the HB2 ‘bathroom bill,’ when they tried to impose harmful limitations on where some UNC students could relieve themselves. Questions have also arisen over Republican-appointed board members who have improperly tried to influence university hiring and contract decisions, as well as, in one case, a student election. A couple of board members sought university chancellorships for themselves.”

The piece includes quotes from Governor Cooper and co-chair Margaret Spellings.

  Follow this link to read more of the Winston-Salem Journal’s point of view on the new commission.

Calibrating UNC Governance

Higher Ed Works has published a great post about Governor Cooper’s newly established commission on governance. We asked, and received, their permission to re-publish the entire post below.
RALEIGH (December 1, 2022) – Two former Presidents of the UNC System who will lead a commission to assess the System’s governing structure say the panel will examine models across the country and try to better define the roles of board members.

“It’s a good time to stop, look and listen to how things are organized,” said Margaret Spellings, a Republican who was the System’s president from 2016-19. “As I like to say, we need to be organized for success. It’s a good time to take stock.”

In North Carolina and across the country, she said, governments are attempting to calibrate the proper balance between the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

Tom Ross, a Democrat who served as UNC System President from 2011-16, will co-chair the commission with Spellings. In a joint interview with Higher Ed Works, Ross said the group will examine how state universities are governed across the country – and there are lots of models( 1).

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced creation of the commission Nov. 1 and the members of the commission last week (3). 

Ross called the members “a really high-level group of people.” He said he is encouraged “that it’s a bipartisan commission that the governor appointed … this ought to be a bipartisan issue.”

Spellings said one of the commission’s aims will be a governance structure that lasts through shifts in political power “to protect this mighty engine of North Carolina.”


THE LEGISLATURE

Currently, all 24 members of the UNC Board of Governors are appointed by the NC General Assembly. And the Board of Trustees at each of the UNC System’s 17 campuses are appointed by the General Assembly and the Board of Governors. The Republican-led legislature removed the governor’s power to appoint campus trustees after Cooper was elected governor in 2016.

Since Cooper announced creation of the commission in an executive order, many have questioned whether legislators will pay heed to the commission’s recommendations.

“We’ll make the case – we’re going to learn a lot through this process,” said Spellings.

“If we can make recommendations to make the System as strong as it can be, we’ll do that,” said Ross.

Both political parties have always been interested in improving the state’s economy, Ross said. 

Given projections of a shrinking supply of traditional high-school graduates and demands of an increasingly technological economy, “It’s going to be a tighter and tighter market and it’s going to demand higher and higher levels of education,” he said.

Ross and Spellings noted the appointments of House Majority Leader John Bell and Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, to the commission. Former Rep. John Fraley, R-Iredell, is now a member of the Board of Governors and is also among the members.

Bell told WRAL News last week that any shift in appointment powers to the governor is likely to be rejected by legislators.

But “if this is about putting politics aside and improving higher education in North Carolina, I’m always willing to listen and have an honest discussion about how we can move our state forward,” he said (4).

Spellings noted that Cooper made it clear that any changes in appointment powers recommended by the commission should take effect after he steps down in early 2025. 

The goal is “not a power grab by an individual,” she said.


ISSUES

Some – including members of the Board of Governors – have raised questions about whether the Board has the proper demographic and geographic representation. Others have questioned the appointment of several lobbyists, given that their livelihood depends on state legislators.

In recent years, one or more BOG members have themselves sought university chancellorships. Two trustees at one university tried to intervene in and influence a student government election. Others have tried to influence university hiring and contract decisions.

Ross said one thing the commission will try to define is, “What is the appropriate role of governing bodies? What are their responsibilities versus those of administrators?

“We need to be clear about who has what responsibilities,” he said.

Others say the governing boards have become overly political. Though politics has always been a part of board appointments, Ross said, “Are there ways we can minimize the political influence in the University?”

Spellings said board members also need to understand and respect shared governance between the faculty and administrators, which can affect whether universities remain accredited. 

The University is competing with other states for students, faculty and staff.

“We need the players to play their right and proper role and understand what that is,” Spellings said. “It’s easy to stay in your lane if you know what your lane is.”

Ross said many appointees to university boards have experience in business, but not necessarily in higher-education governance. “Part of it is education,” he said. “That’s true of any board you join, whether it’s higher education or a corporate board.”

Board members also need to show self-discipline, Ross said. “If a board member gets out of line, I think it’s incumbent on the other board members to step up and say, ‘That’s out of line,’” he said. “And I think they can do that.”

1. In particular, Ross referenced extensive research by the NC Center for Public Policy Research: https://nccppr.org/wp-content/uploads/research_reports/THE_STATE_WIDE_UNC_BOARD_OF_GOVERNORS.pdf
2. https://governor.nc.gov/news/press-releases/2022/11/01/governor-cooper-signs-executive-order-establishing-commission-future-public-universities-north
3. https://governor.nc.gov/news/press-releases/2022/11/23/governor-cooper-announces-members-commission-governance-public-universities-north-carolina.
4. https://www.wral.com/cooper-rounds-out-unc-governance-task-force/20594320/.
Other Must-Read News:

As we consider the task that the newly appointed governance commission has before it, it is worth revisiting a September 2021 Daily Tarheel article where they describe how UNC System governance has changed. Their news article is entitled; “Breaking down the power structure and history of the UNC Board of Trustees”.  It is very well done and gives insight into the challenge that the commission faces.  It also provides examples of some of the governance related problems that Carolina is experiencing.  Our very own Dr. Mimi Chapman is quoted in this excellent post and reading it will remind you of why the Coalition for Carolina came to be.  

Click the link below for a link to the Daily Tarheel Piece:

 
Daily Tarheel


Dr. Mimi Chapman is also quoted in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education piece entitled; “The Apolitical University”. This article asks; “Should institutions remain neutral on controversial issues? Is that even possible?”  The author, Adrienne Lu, starts out with a description of how Carolina’s Dr. Barbara K. Rimer posted a statement in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and received an immediate response from some who felt that her statement crossed a line. The author goes on to explore how speech is being handled on campuses and describes how many campuses have embraced the Kalven Report. Dr Chapman expresses her desire that adoption of the Kalven Report at Carolina will not be just  “a mechanism … for muzzling administrators but rather a mechanism for allowing faculty to bring their expertise, knowledge, and practice on the issues of the day to the public square.”  

Read the full Chronicle of Higher Education article by clicking the link below:
 
Chronicle of Higher Education

FIVE BILLION DOLLARS!

What a milestone!

We’re absolutely delighted that more than 215,000 people who love and want to support Carolina students, faculty, research, and financial aid were motivated to contribute to the Campaign for Carolina.  Because of their generosity, Carolina has raised an eyepopping FIVE BILLION DOLLARS with a month to go in the fundraising campaign!

The press coverage of this milestone achievement has been glowing and well deserved.  Here’s a sample of what they’re saying:

  • News and Observer –  “The milestone makes UNC the first university, public or private, in the South to raise $5 billion in a single campaign. UNC joins five other public universities, and becomes one of 16 universities total, in the country in reaching that amount. The university described the milestone in a news release as one of ‘the most successful efforts ever in higher education.’”

This achievement is a much-needed boost of encouragement for our university leadership, faculty, and staff at a time when they’ve been bruised by headlines highlighting issues related to university governance and overreach.  This kind of support from those who love Carolina demonstrates tremendous confidence in the chancellor, administrators, faculty and staff.  It also helps to address some of the challenges the university has faced as a result of funding cuts over the past decade.  On a per student funding basis, the UNC system is still not back to pre-recession (2008) levels. (“The state spent $2,900 less per student in the University of North Carolina System in 2020-21 than it did in 2006-07, when adjusted for inflation.”)

Chancellor Guskiewicz expressed his gratitude in a press release saying; “I am immensely grateful for the community of donors and volunteers who have supported us on this journey….” Their generosity represents a strong affirmation of our mission of teaching, research and service. Reaching this milestone ensures that Carolina will continue to prepare generations of students and scholars to solve the grand challenges of our time.”

While we are absolutely delighted at this achievement, we are mindful that this is “once in a generation” kind of fund raising. Carolina remains a public university created for all the people of North Carolina and our sustainability is dependent on taxpayer support administered through the General Assembly.  In a previous post we pointed out how private fundraising has helped keep Carolina as affordable and accessible as possible, but private fundraising is not a substitute for consistent, sufficient, reliable state support. 

In this Thanksgiving season, we are grateful for the generosity of our Carolina community.   We have come together to support our great university at an unprecedented level at a critical time.  This fundraising vote of confidence speaks volumes. Thank you to all who supported, and will support, this effort.

The 2022 Election is Over – Now What?

We are hopeful that the lack of a supermajority in the NC House will lead to more bipartisan cooperation with respect to public higher education governance and representation on boards of trustees.  In celebrating the supermajority win in the NC Senate, Senator Berger touted one of his priorities as delivering “quality education”.  We agree that delivering quality education is paramount and will do all we can to support that.  We will also work to ensure that “quality education” includes fair, representative governance devoid of politicization.

As for the election results, Republicans increased their margin in the NC House, gained a majority of seats on the NC Supreme Court, and gained a supermajority in the NC Senate. This may suggest that they will continue business as usual.  In fact, a WRAL article quotes Senator Phil Berger as saying;  “Our promise to the people of North Carolina is that the Senate Republican supermajority will continue to deliver on those priorities.”  We hope that this promise excludes gerrymandering of voting districts and includes appointing UNC Board of Governors members and trustees who reflect the political, geographic, gender, racial and ethnic composition of our state. We will work to drive positive change in this area. The best legislatures in our nation’s history, state and federal, embraced the pursuit of the best policies for our citizens—without demanding party-line allegiance to decide policy.

We are also encouraged that the bipartisan leadership of former UNC System presidents Margaret Spellings and Tom Ross will address governance issues in a new Commission.  A WRAL editorial sums it up best:

“Cooper’s effort is much-needed, timely and important. Whether it is the needless and costly move of the UNC system headquarters from Chapel Hill to Raleigh or appointments of trustees or campus chancellors, politics and ideology have become the priority – not quality education. The complaints of over-the-top political meddling come from some unusual sources – people otherwise noted for their partisanship including former GOP state legislator Leo Daughtry and longtime Republican mega-donor, ex-legislator and state budget director Art Pope.

Ross made his mark as a steady professional, running the system in a business-like manner that appropriately prioritized the missions of education and research. He was much in the mold of one of his predecessors, C.D. Spangler.

Spellings, certainly no liberal, also made education, not politics, her priority. The obvious friction with legislative leaders led to her early resignation.

Cooper, a Democrat, has skillfully timed the work of the commission and its recommendations in a way that he won’t gain any political benefit. His term ends in two years — when the recommendations are due — and state law prohibits him from seeking re-election to a third consecutive term.

Two years ago, the Chronicle of Higher Education took an in-depth look at how members of the UNC Board were selected and the impact on operation of the individual campuses. The Chronicle’s investigation detailed how the appointment process left the UNC system ‘vulnerable to an ideologically-driven and politically motivated form of college governance,’ according to the Chronicle’s findings.”

The work of The Coalition for Carolina is more important than ever.  We will continue to fight for the University’s promise of Lux Libertas—light and liberty—and the principles of open inquiry, free speech, equity and inclusion. We thank you for supporting our very important mission: To protect one of the State of North Carolina’s most valuable assets: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

UNC Performance Based Funding

The UNC System Board of Governors is looking to implement a new performance-based funding model that has potentially negatively effects on research-intensive schools and lower-income students.  They are also considering raising the out-of-state cap for some system schools, which have faced enrolment declines, but not for Carolina. These changes need more public attention and comment.  They are going to be considered for implementation at the November 16 – 17 meeting.

According to a WUNC article, the new funding formula prioritizes graduating in-state students in four years and with lower levels of debt. This is a great goal, but should it be a metric for allocating funds, especially when there are sound reasons for certain students to take longer to graduate?  These priorities align with the UNC System’s strategic goals, according UNC System President Peter Hans.   Board of Governors member Lee Roberts said, “UNC System universities would lose a total of $62 million in state funding based on this year’s enrollment. Under the new model, they would lose $36 million. But Lee also admits that  “13 schools do better under the performance funding model than under the old enrollment model, two schools do slightly worse.” He did not specify which institutions would do worse.  

Schools being rewarded for graduating students in four years — regardless of the student’s chosen fields of study, changes in major, need to work to pay for college, unexpected personal concerns, etc. and being rewarded when students graduate with less debt sounds good, but can be problematic. Both of these changes can make it harder for first generation or lower income students to attend and graduate from more expensive schools like Carolina and State. It also makes it challenging when students shift fields of study due to exposure to a larger world view one experiences with higher education. We recently learned of a real-world example of how a students seeking to change his major was negatively impacted:

John Doe entered Carolina as a freshman enthusiastic about majoring in economics. Between sophomore and junior years, he became very excited about computer science and wanted to change his major.  (This type of exploration, discovery and enlightenment is a good thing and one of the reasons parents send their children to college.) Because he had to take two prerequisites courses, which were not offered the same semester, he couldn’t dive into his new major until senior year.  He would need two more courses to earn enough credits to major in computer science, thus requiring him an additional semester beyond four years. Because he had enough credits to earn an economics major and had completed General College requirements, UNC told him he had to graduate in May with an economics major and meet the four-year graduation goal.  It is wrong to deny this, or any, student the ability to major in their desired field because the university is afraid of losing funding when it is the student who chooses to take more than four years to graduate. 

As for the model providing the schools an incentive to limit the debt students have upon graduating, Carolina is already focused on this and Carolina student debt is lower than the state average. Setting aside the fact that some of the increased debt load is a result of reduced state per-student funding over the years, less debt is a good thing and should be pursued. But, when students run into unexpected life changes, desire to change their major and spend more time in school, or even choose to attend a “stretch” school that requires them to borrow a little more, the school should not be punished with funding cuts.

As for the Board of Governors indicating that some schools will fare worse with the new funding model, while others will do better; why move forward without public transparency on exactly how each school is going to be affected? 

One of the ways schools can, potentially, get around the punitive impact of the proposed funding model is to raise more funds from non-public sources.  Carolina has proven to be very successful at this, however, the UNC Board of Trustees wants to reduce the amount of funding given to the development office. Why the handcuffs?

Why is the new funding model being considered? Historically funding has been based on enrollment and there has been a decline in enrollment across the country and the UNC system. (Carolina has not experienced such a decline.)  The decline in college enrollment was projected after the great recession of 2007-2008.  The birth rate declined during this period as people put off having children.  When the recession was over, the birth rate did not recover.  As a result, analysts began to warn colleges to prepare for enrollment declines projected to start around 2025.  According to their projections, after 2025, some college consolidations and closures could be expected to occur across the country as a result of fewer college-aged students in the population.  Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic was not anticipated in those projections and has only accelerated enrollment declines. So, we are experiencing the projected decline three years earlier and at a rate higher than expected. We are not disagreeing with the idea of altering the funding model. We just think the metrics chosen are ill-advised and also that they need more public awareness.

Randy Woodson, Chancellor of NCSU responded to the proposed funding changes saying; This is probably the most critical decision this board will make in a decade, because it has the impact of how the campuses operate for years into the future….I’ve got a CFO that’s been the CFO of three institutions in the [UNC] System, and he’s struggling with this.”

Follow this link to read WUNC’s entire analysis

Other News:

“The Public School Forum of North Carolina has released the 2022 North Carolina Education Primer, which serves as a fact-based guide to public education in North Carolina. The Primer provides a comprehensive overview of how education policy is made, along with the current state of public education and the policies guiding it. The Forum produces this guide in order to inform current policymakers, candidates for public office, and voters.

Education policy involves a wide range of interconnected issues such as school finance and facilities, accountability and assessment, technology, teachers and so much more. In order to make well-informed and evidence-based decisions, policymakers and voters face the challenge of understanding complex educational issues.”

In a piece entitled The Myth of Political Neutrality, Volt asks the question; “As higher ed becomes increasingly politicized, can college and university presidents afford to remain silent?”

You Can Change How Carolina Is Governed

In case you missed all of the campaign signs and political commercials, here is yet another reminder that an election is just around the corner. 

Voting in the 2022 mid-terms starts on Thursday October 20, 2022 with One-Stop Early Voting. If you are concerned about politicization and governance overreach hurting our beloved Carolina, then we urge you to research the candidates to gain a clear understanding of their positions on public education and university governance before you vote.  Doing so holds such high importance because those who are elected to the General Assembly determine how Carolina and the UNC System are governed.

In January of 2022 The Daily Tarheel published an editorial entitled “Breaking down the Board of GovernorsHere is a brief excerpt from that piece:

“The Board of Governors has 24 voting members that serve terms of four years. Members are elected by the Senate and House of Representatives of the North Carolina General Assembly.

The Board of Governors appoints the majority of trustees on boards at Chapel Hill and 15 other state universities. The BOT has the final say on faculty tenure and advises chancellors on the management of their campuses. 

The North Carolina legislature also appoints select trustees.”

So, we urge you to take some time to get an understanding how the persons you wish to vote for view public education and Carolina governance and then make your study the foundation of your plan to vote.  If your mailbox and social media timelines are  full of partisan pitches, you may want to start your research with the overview that nonpartisan, nonprofit Ballotpedia has published for some of the 2022 North Carolina races:

OfficeElections?More information
U.S. SenateClick here
U.S. HouseClick here
State SenateClick here
State HouseClick here
State Supreme CourtClick here
Intermediate appellate courtsClick here
School boardsClick here
Municipal governmentClick here
Local ballot measuresClick here

See you at the polls!

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“Higher Ed is on the Ballot”.  That is the title of a new special report from the Chronicle of Higher Education.  They specifically mention Carolina in their introduction which begins…

“The midterm elections are fast approaching, and higher education is on the ballot. According to the memoirist turned ultra-conservative political hopeful J.D. Vance, “The professors are the enemy” — an attitude whose legislative corollaries include a widespread focus on the teaching of “critical race theory” in college classrooms and high-profile political disputes over controversies like the University of North Carolina’s attempt to hire Nikole Hannah-Jones. Meanwhile, President Biden’s debt-cancellation plan faces Republican pushback and is likely to meet legal challenges. Two landmark anti-affirmative-action cases await their day at the Supreme Court.”

Click here to check out this midterm election special report.

How to Suppress Academic Freedom

On September 26, 2022 The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article under the heading of “academic freedom” that details the actions the University of Idaho has taken to silence educators when it comes to the issue of abortion. The article was written by Senior Reporter Nell Gluckman and is entitled; “’It’s Making Us Accomplices’: A University Tells Faculty to ‘Remain Neutral’ on Abortion Discussions in Class.”

The university references Idaho’s law and asks educators to “remain neutral” when it comes to conversations about abortion. The university also addresses the subject of contraception acknowledging that “the Idaho law was ‘not a model of clarity’ … with regards to contraception.”  As a result, the university’s general council’s  advice– with respect to contraception–was “to be conservative, …, the university should not provide birth control.”

Several affected faculty members expressed fear that their “viewpoint expression” could result in them committing a felony and see the new guidance as deeply troubling, a “breaching of the divide between religion and state,” and an infringement on academic freedom. Follow this link to read the entire article.

Preserving academic freedom and freedom of speech in our public universities is absolutely essential for a well-functioning democracy and actions like those taken by the University of Idaho raise alarm bells.   In an earlier conversation with Carolina professor Dr. William Sturkey, we asked him to  describe how  freedom of speech differs from academic freedom. As you can read and hear from his description, actions like those taken by the University of Idaho may infringe on both.
 How does freedom of speech differ from academic freedom and why would someone self-censor?
Freedom of speech, most importantly, in our country applies to the freedom of the press [and], freedom of assembly. These laws were enacted to make sure that tyrannical governments couldn’t tamp down [on] the press and political movements….It’s about the state suppressing freedom of speech. It’s about the state banning books. It’s about the state banning concepts or trying to ban ideas by using state power through the legislature. That’s what freedom of speech is really about.Now it can be expanded and there’s, you know, liberal ways that you can sort of play with that…. like I have free speech now because I’m speaking…. There’s a huge spectrum of what that might mean. But it really means when the state steps in to interfere with people’s exchange of ideas.Academic freedom, to me, is the ability to study and discuss what you want…. It’s [the] ability to draw conclusions on… their own merit, you know, using your own independent research, [and] not having, …, an administration or even a state government tell you what to research and ultimately what to find. That’s what freedom of speech and that’s what academic freedom mean…. It’s also crucial to understand, I think, that freedom of speech also allows for people to respond to your speech.…. [T]he term “safe spaces” is often thrown out, but also one of the things with this term “self-censorship” is that it almost seems like you don’t want people to have the freedom to respond to folks who are making points, the people…self-censor because they’re afraid of what other people have to say. And, you know, I think that we should all share our views provided that we’re convicted in those views, but everyone else has a right to respond to you as well.
Other News:
Another Chronicle of Higher Education article written by Jonathan Marks and entitled “Red Scare” explores the origins and stated mission versus actions of youth conservative group Turning Point USA.  In the piece Marks explores activism on college campuses, addresses the question of liberal versus conservative representation, and concludes that the activism of groups like Turning Point USA “bears an uncomfortable resemblance to McCarthyism.”  Rightwing activists often accuse colleges of trying to “indoctrinate” students to become more liberal.  What seems clear from this piece is that the colleges are not the ones doing the indoctrinating. As with similar finger pointing,  the accusation of indoctrination  appears to be more projection than reality. Follow this link to check out this very interesting piece.

How Florida Did It

Before we get into the topic of this week’s newsletter, we would like to send our thoughts and prayers to those in Florida, and elsewhere, who are dealing with the devastation left by Hurricane Ian.

In last week’s newsletter we celebrated Carolina remaining in the #5 spot of US News and World Report rankings for public universities. We also noted that this year Carolina is tied with the University of Florida. Several of you contacted us and asked for information on how Florida was able to move so far up the ranking so quickly.  (Between 2015 and 2022 the University of Florida has climbed 20 spots and  leapfrogged its way into the top 10.) We looked into this further and found a post that details what happened.  

To summarize the post, the University of Florida trustees were tired of people dissing their alma matter and decided to do something about it.  They laser focused on the US News and World Report metrics and worked to get Florida in the top 10 public university in the country.  Achieving this goal was the critical criteria used to recruit a new university president in 2003.  They also engaged then Governor Rick Scott and the state legislature to get the funding to make the goal a reality.  Below is an excerpt from the detailed post.  You can follow this link to read the full analysis.
“In his efforts to cement his university’s place in the rankings, Machen reached far beyond Gainesville. He worked with then-Governor Rick Scott to get the state to pass a funding scheme called Preeminence, which rewarded public colleges that did best on some of the metrics deemed important by U.S. News. For the University of Florida, Preeminence created the kind of virtuous circle that such money often begets. It helped the university ascend the rankings, which in turn brought in more applicants, more approval from lawmakers, and more money, which administrators could use to keep climbing.

In return, Machen supported Scott’s launch of performance-based funding for Florida universities — a system that also advantaged the flagship. But the partial alignment of state purse strings with U.S. News metrics has come at a cost. Critics say these developments have driven an even bigger wedge between the state’s four-year colleges, making richer institutions richer, and depriving less-resourced institutions of much-needed funds.
….
UF’s funds went to hiring not only more faculty members, but stars in their fields, people who would sharpen the research attributable to the University of Florida, bolster the university’s national reputation, and bring in big, prestigious federal research grants. …”
Florida trustees successfully used their legislative connections to fund the university’s move up the US News and World Report rankings.  With the legislature’s involvement, other state universities received support and also rose. Did their successes come with a price?  The state funding was tied to the recipient universities being required to implement a new metrics program tied to the rankings.  The program was called Preeminence. This program place strict limitations on how the state funds could be used.  Given the headlines about governance overreach in Florida today, could this have been also another big opening for legislators to become more involved in Florida university day-to-day operations?
Other News:
Our very own Dr. Holden Thorp published a piece entitled The Charade of Political Neutralityin the Chronicle of Higher Education.  He encourages college leaders to speak out on the issues of the day and warns that  “colleges are in the middle of the culture wars whether they like it or not”. H goes on to say “…It’s ironic that the same folks advocating for ‘viewpoint diversity’ are simultaneously muzzling their presidents.”  A great read.
Colleges Must Stop Trying to Appease the Right is a thought-provoking piece by Silke-Maria Weineck that was also published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  In it, the author warns that appeasement…” indulges as legitimate the sort of orchestrated, bad-faith fury conservatives are currently weaponizing against public schools and public libraries, which are,…, an intrinsic and ideally constitutive part of pluralist liberal democracy,”  Check it out.
UNC Board of Governors skips national search, names David Crabtree permanent CEO of PBS NC “David Crabtree, former long-time reporter and anchor at WRAL, was made CEO of PBS NC Thursday after a unanimous vote by the UNC Board of Governors. Crabtree has served as interim leader of the organization for the past five months. The board broke precedent in hiring Crabtree, who will make $275,000 per year in his new role, by not conducting a national candidate search.”