Upcoming Free Speech Event at Carolina

NC Policy Watch reports that free-speech and self-censorship will be formally discussed at Carolina. “On Sept 13, UNC-Chapel Hill’s Program for Public Discourse will hold the university’s first student-centered discussion on the issue. ‘Can We Talk? Student Thoughts on Free Expression at UNC,’ was sparked by a series of surveys about free speech — surveys that themselves have become controversial.”

The NC Policy Watch piece shared a significant amount of the content we published In last week’s newsletter where we featured three video clips from Dr. William Sturkey.  The article  goes into significant detail on the issue and includes interviews with students who will share their perspectives on the panel.  Ironically, in a follow-up question, we had asked Dr. Sturkey to share his thoughts about how such talk of self-censorship is currently manifesting itself on campus and what possible solutions may be.

How is politicized rhetoric about speech and “self-censorship” manifesting itself on campus?

“…[O]ne of the things that I think this whole hysteria over free speech and indoctrination and self-censorship [amplified], that’s really…always been there, but it’s really picked up in the last six or seven years, one of the things I think this has done is convinced people who come in with a certain mindset to not take classes of a certain type or if taught by a certain type of faculty member.

I used to have more diverse political views in my classes when I first started here at UNC Chapel Hill. That has largely gone away. I think one of the things that the self-censorship and the free speech hysteria has done is it has …. convinced people–and it’s probably designed to do this—that {they] should not take a certain type of class. [They] shouldn’t take a class about the 1960s or a class about the civil rights movement. Even if [they’re] interested in those areas, [because] … the professor is of a certain identity. The professor might be young, or a woman, or black. And [they] don’t think that [they] could have a fair opportunity in that class because of all the hysteria that we’ve heard about self-censorship and free speech…. It’s actually pulling students out of those debates in the first place It’s making students ‘self-censor’ more… and making them more predisposed to believing that faculty and other students are going to come down on them….They might not take a class in the first place. They might not expose themselves to new ideas in the first place, because they’ve been preconditioned by these discussions that they will be attacked because of what they believe….But at the end of the day, what’s the solution? There’s no solution proposed.”

Dr. Sturkey ended his comments with  the words, “there’s no solution proposed”.  It now appears that at least one proposed solution is for students to talk about their “perceptions” in an upcoming panel discussion.

Talking, sharing and having open dialogue about issues is generally a very good thing.  However, in today’s highly charged political environment, one of the students interviewed by NC Policy Watch pointed out how diversity is being somewhat redefined and a new term “viewpoint diversity’ has grown in popularity.  We asked Dr. Sturkey to explain “viewpoint diversity”.

What is viewpoint diversity and why should we care?

“So, viewpoint diversity is a very sloppy term that really is just being repurposed for modern debates. Your viewpoint, your point of view is informed by any number of different things from where you grew up to the job that your parents did to your religion, to your race, whatever. That’s your point of view. That’s fine. Now, a lot of people are conflating that with your political identity. Okay. We live in this tribalistic world where you’re supposed to either be a Democrat or Republican. And it’s almost like you’re born that way. In a more healthy, functioning democracy, you would have a variety of different viewpoints, some of which resonated with Democratic policies, some of which resonated with Republican policies. And then ultimately you would, vote for the party that most closely reflected your own diverse viewpoints.

But now we’re seeing viewpoint diversity being used as being Republican or Democrat, as if we’re all just living in these two separate spheres. Right. So that if there are people that disagree about something, it must mean that they’re either Republican or Democrat. The fact of the matter is, is that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has more diverse viewpoints than any other organization or institution in the state of North Carolina, by far.

We have people that are born in Australia, in Ghana, in China, South Carolina, North Carolina, Montana, Alaska, where people are Native American, whatever … that might be. There’s no organization or institution in this state that can come remotely close to matching the diversity of views that we have at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

And if there are any, then guess what? It’s NC State or UNCG or another institution of higher education. So, what the viewpoint diversity is being used, though, is to say it’s to say that we should have more “conservative” views. Right. If you accept the premise that we’re in these two different camps, that’s the argument that’s being made. Right, that we need to have more conservative views and that therefore that would protect viewpoint diversity.”

One of the potential dangers of so-called “viewpoint diversity” is that unproven assumptions and perspectives might be given the same weight as truth and facts.  Dr. Sturkey addressed this possibility.

How is campus life being impacted by so called “viewpoint diversity”?

“I think one of the dangers about so much of our political discourse leaking into university settings is that lies and truth are given the same space. …So, [for] a lot of people, even when you refute lies, they think that you’re just doing that because you have a political viewpoint or they think you’re doing that to attack their political viewpoint . And they feel… aggravated because you’ve refuted one of their lies.

For example, Donald Trump did not get more votes in the last presidential election than Joe Biden…and that’s just a fact. But if you say that in a classroom setting, then you’re perceived as being somebody who’s attacking someone’s political point of view. But that political point of view is based on a quantifiable lie.  So, [perhaps] another thing that … causes people to self-censor is maybe they know that these things can’t be backed up, or maybe they know they can’t go find the evidence….And at the end of the day, we need to go back to facts. And I think what happens is that people that don’t have facts just simply say: “well, that person is a liberal, Democrat, Republican, whatever, and that’s why they disagree with me, not because their argument holds merit, but because my side says one thing and their side says to the other. So, what we need is more people on the campus who say what I say, because that’s what I see on cable television or on the Internet or back in my family home.”

In the name of Lux Libertas, we are delighted that students are talking about the issues related to speech, debate and self-censorship at the upcoming event on September 13th.  It is our hope that, like the survey, such open dialogue will dispel some of the myths about politicization on campus that are driving ill-informed governance solutions that are harming our beloved Carolina.

Dr. William Sturkey: Speech? Debate? Self-Censor?

The Coalition reached out to UNC Chapel Hill history professor Dr. William Sturkey to get his perspective about speech on campus.  We discussed recently passed resolutions,  the meaning of academic freedom, “viewpoint” diversity and more.

Below are a few video excerpts from our conversation about a recent student survey and calls for more “conservative” speech on campus. 

What are your thoughts about a recent survey that some trustees say is proof that “conservative’ students “self-censor”?

Dr. William Sturkey shares thoughts on recent UNC-CH student survey

The one thing that was very striking about the survey … was how few students actually took it. So, a very, very small minority of students actually responded to the survey. If this was a major crisis on our campuses, I imagine that more than 11 [or] 12% of students across the system would have actually responded to the survey. The other thing was that the survey really corrected a lot of misconceptions. Students overwhelmingly said that professors don’t take hard political stance in classes…We often accused of on cable news and the Internet people constantly talking about indoctrination on our college campuses. I think that what people have really latched on to, now that this indoctrination issue has been disproven, is that students self-censor.

And, what I really struggle with, with that, is that of course, they self-censor. We all self-censor in virtually every single interaction with other human beings…we all self-censor to some regard. And that’s not just out of respect for other people’s views, but that’s out of worrying about what the consequences of saying whatever pops into your head [is] going to have on your social standing. And so, I just think it’s really bizarre that we take a very common social practice and we say that this is a crisis in higher education when it’s something that we do in every walk of life, in every institution, every organization in our society. You should not say every single thing that pops up into your mind.

And if you have a very unpopular opinion, then maybe you don’t want to share that because you want to get invited to the party on Friday night or whatever. But the other thing is, I don’t know why we’re always putting the onus on the university itself. Why don’t the students come prepared to defend their views? I’ve been that student who had an unpopular opinion in class and argued with conviction, even though I had 13, 14, 15 people telling me I was wrong. And yeah, you’re not the most popular person that day, but at the same time, I didn’t necessarily blame them because I couldn’t go share my views. You know, I think that it’s a bizarre thing that we don’t allow students to openly debate in middle school, in high school, or in their churches or in their family room, you know, their family dining room tables. And then all of a sudden, we expect colleges to open this realm of open debate. It makes no sense at all. I would love for some of these ideas to be applied to private high schools and churches, and even family settings, and then ask people, how often do you self-censor in those settings? Because I bet it’s just as much, if not a lot more than institutions of higher education, like the University of North Carolina.

What do you think needs to happen as a result of this survey? Do faculty need more training? What about students? 

With this recent survey, one of the things I would love to see happen is not necessarily faculty training [because] the students say that faculty explores all sides of different debates.  That’s what the survey results bore out.  But, I think one of the things that we could do is train students to be more engaged.

… I will also observe that our classes are getting bigger. There are other policies that we think might be separate from this whole issue of expression, and free speech, and all of this, that are actually directly connected. Because when you’re in a class of 125 students, you don’t get to talk at all. Forget about self-censoring….It might be a couple of people get to …. speak per class. But even when you’re in a class of 35 students, you’re less likely to speak than when you are in a class of 15 students. If we want to encourage students to develop debate skills or the ability to express themselves verbally, we need smaller classes. We also need to then take the onus off of the institution….and actually train students to think critically and independently…. We need more humanities courses. We need more courses that teach students to think critically even when that critical thinking runs up against some of the ideas that they’ve been indoctrinated with since before they got to campus. I think those are some of the things that we need to do.   And we need to also listen to the people in our own community.

[I say this with respect to]…some of the policies that … [have recently passed]…. I’ve been reading the news coverage, and there was an example where a member of the board of trustees referenced some sort of cocktail party or something that he heard about third or fourth hand. I mean, we are full of talented faculty who interact with students every single day. Why are we hearing about what’s happening on our campus from somebody’s parent who heard it from their kid about a cocktail party or …something….? … [L]etting feelings, anecdotes and rumors dictate policy instead of actually using the talent and the passionate faculty and leaders that we have on the campus.

What are your thoughts about accusations that “conservative voices” are not represented among the faculty or are being silenced?

We’ve heard for a long time now …how there should be more “conservatives” on campus…. [W]hy is it always framed in that way? Why isn’t it that the conservative party doesn’t try to attract more academics and researchers and scientists? …it wasn’t always that way. Perhaps something has changed in conservative movements or conservative circles in recent years. But, to respond more directly to that point, the fact of the matter is, we don’t check voter registration status when we’re hiring people, when we’re interviewing people. We just simply don’t. That stuff doesn’t even come up.

The stuff that we study on campus, we study the whole world, right? We study ideas about even other worlds, literature, physics. Right? You don’t stop and ask somebody whether they registered as a Republican or Democrat. So, if we were ever to try and boost the number of “conservative” faculty on campus, One, I would say that the “conservative” party, the Republican Party, needs to expand its tent so that it can actually appeal to researchers and scientists and nonwhite people that have PhDs. That would be the very first thing you could do that would enhance the number of Republican folks teaching on the campus. The second thing, is really that you would have to then target people based on their political views, which we currently do not do. You would have to actually actively look up people’s voter registration…

So, … I guess my answer really is to try and toss that question back to the “conservatives” and ask them; why…so few people with advanced degrees follow the Republican Party?

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!

Click here for links to contact them.

Free Speech at UNC Reaffirmed

During our faculty tenure webinar 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.





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.”

The Chaos Continues

Governing chaos is not limited to Carolina or the UNC System. This week the NC Community College System president Thomas Stith III announced his resignation after little more than 18 months in the job.  With this departure, the state’s community college system will have had seven presidents or interim presidents in seven years!   During this same seven-year period the UNC System has had five presidents or interim presidents.  This level of chaos and turnover is simply unprecedented, astounding, and deeply damaging to North Carolina. Not only that, but according to WRAL; “the state community college system has lost nearly all of its top-level leadership in recent years, with high turnover throughout the system’s central office. Nearly half of the system’s 58 schools have also changed leadership.”  Prior to Stith, current UNC System President Peter Hans was the president of NC Community Colleges.

So, what’s next?  The departure of Stith and ongoing chaos in both systems has revised speculation that legislators might take advantage of the chaos to merge the NC Community College System with the UNC system.  Such a potential move was first reported in the Assembly in late 2021 and followed up by Education NC.  The latter provided a copy of an email signed by Thomas Stith which seemed to confirm that such a merger was under consideration.   Senator Phil Berger gave fuel to the speculation when he referred to : “synergies between the UNC System, the North Carolina Community College System, the state Department of Public Instruction and the state Department of Commerce…..[He’d] like to see them all in one building – or at least one campus….Maybe just one building, it may be a couple of buildings, …But I think they need to be in close proximity.”  We now know that “close proximity” means across the street from the legislature.  We have not seen evidence that such a merger would be good for either system and Mr. Paul Wiles, current Chair of the Board at Forsyth Technical Community College, implores us “not to be seduced into a false belief that the establishment of a sole governing body for public education in North Carolina would benefit our students.”

Meanwhile at our beloved Carolina, we’ve lost our revered dean of the Graduate School, Suzanne Barbour, to our athletic rival Duke.  Hired in 2019, Dean Barbour has been at UNC-CH less than 3 years.  While she has not said why she decided to leave, we hope that the numerous reports of low faculty morale on campus—particularly among faculty of color—did not contribute to such a huge loss.

Don’t like what’s happening?  Say something.  Follow this link for information on how to contact state leaders.  https://coalitionforcarolinafoundation.org/contact/

Daughtry: Gone from the BOG After Criticizing the BOG

On June 13, 2022 we shared comments from several Board of Governors members who were critical of the BOG’s decision to move the UNC System headquarters. One of those members was Leo Daughtry.  Here is part of what he said:

  • “IT SEEMS TO ME that politics has seeped under our buffer”. He added that the UNC System keeps a “political operative” on a retainer. 
  • “It is my opinion that the move from here to Raleigh was done purely on the basis of politics,” 

Now NC Policy Watch reports that “[a]fter six years on the UNC Board of Governors, Leo Daughtry is moving to the North Carolina State Board of Transportation.”  Mr. Daughtry said that NC House Leadership offered him a position on the new board and he “believed it was time to leave the Board of Governors”. In a phone interview with NC Policy Watch, Daughtry “declined to address whether political conflict was at the heart of his change in appointment. But, he [said that he] stands by his concerns about the relocation to Raleigh.

Here at the Coalition for Carolina Foundation we thank Mr. Daughtry for his courage to address this dangerous instance of politicization in the UNC system and wish him well in his new position.  

While the budget for the move has been approved, change can still happen. We can and must work to persuade our legislators to not follow-through with this bad idea. What can you do? Write them, call them, email them, submit opinion pieces, or share your thoughts on social media.  We must continue to speak out.

Other News:
The UNC System Office Move

In addition to the news about Mr. Daughtry moving to a different board, we’ve learned where legislators and the BOG want to move the UNC System headquarters to. And, unfortunately, we were correct about politicization possibilities. Higher Ed Works reports that the new location will be right across the street from state legislators and cost taxpayers several hundred million dollars. 
The 2022-23 State Budget

Higher Ed Works has published comments about the recently adopted state budget. 
They conclude that Carolina faculty and staff will not receive the much-needed pay raises we advocated for.  Instead, they will likely receive yet another inflation adjusted pay cut. 
UNC and Roe v Wade?

A recent news article highlighted our very own Dr. Mimi Chapman’s response to the Supreme Court abortion ruling, but questioned Carolina’s “silence” or lack of a response. 

“One week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its landmark ruling in Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization, public and private colleges and universities across the country have weighed in the elimination of a constitutional right to abortion.

From the University of North Carolina System and its flagship campus, UNC-Chapel Hill: total silence.”

The article references Dr. Rimer’s statement of The Gillings School as a reaction to UNC’s “silence”. We are looking into this further, but so far have not been able to find a UNC response comparable to this response from Duke.

What’s Up with The Faculty?

Today the American Association of University Professors came out with their annual report on faculty salaries showing that wages for professors increased 2% “consistent with the flat wage growth observed since the Great Recession of the late 2000’s.” Despite the first raise in several years occurring this year in the UNC system, salaries at UNC Chapel Hill remain behind our peers particularly for women and people of color. Combined with so much scandal and unrest, our faculty is highly vulnerable to poaching from better funded universities – often private, but not exclusively so – that can pay them better and perhaps provide a less politicized working environment.

Last week, someone asked a faculty member what they were doing this summer, “since you’re not teaching.” Faculty are asked versions of this question all the time, whether it’s summer or not. The implication is that if they’re not in the classroom, they’re gardening, playing golf, or on a multi-month vacation.  But a faculty member’s job both at research and teaching-focused institutions extends far beyond the classroom and is a year-round endeavor.  

Faculty come to an institution like UNC Chapel Hill because it is a research institution, a place that will support scholarship and allow them to contribute to solving current problems and to understanding both the past and the present. The faculty’s research mission is two-fold. First, to create knowledge through data collection, archival research, field studies, the use of artificial intelligence; work that happens at the bench and at the bedside, in the library and in the community. And next to disseminate the resulting knowledge through every imaginable channel – white papers on a website, peer-reviewed journal articles, interviews, and conferences, lay publications and twitter threads.  That dissemination is critical, because that is how the knowledge created here gets put to use by the larger society.  Much of that concentrated research work and dissemination happens after the typical 8 to 6 day and over “holidays” when the demands of the classroom are not as pressing. 

In addition to the classroom teaching most associated with faculty life, faculty members also spend copious hours with graduate students as they are becoming researchers in their own right. Chairing, editing, or otherwise overseeing their thesis or dissertation committees, writing letters of recommendation, helping graduate students prepare for presentations and job talks, supervising them in the classroom or in professional internships among other mentoring responsibilities also accounts for large chunks of faculty time. 

Faculty are regularly engaged in running the institution through hiring and awards committees, through curriculum revisions and updates, promotion, and tenure committees, just to name a few. For their disciplines and professions, they are editing journals, reviewing papers and grants for foundations and federal agencies. The number of hats most academics wear is astounding, and there is so much we’ve left out. No doubt being a faculty member is a privilege, just as being a CEO, a small business owner, or a partner in a law firm is a privileged position. But that does not make those roles easy or cushy as some may believe. Here at the Coalition for Carolina we want the public to have a better understanding of academic life to fully appreciate what UNC Chapel Hill does for our state. Understanding faculty life is one part of that. Send your questions and comments and we’ll attempt to address them.  

Submitted by:  Dr. Mimi Chapman – Chair, UNC Chapel Hill Faculty

Click the link below to access the full AAUP Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2021-22

AAUP Annual Report 2021-22

Two Concerning Issues for the BOG and BOT to Address

Below are two concerning governance issues that The Coalition for Carolina would like the Board of Governors and UNC Chapel Hill Trustees to address:

  1. Moving the UNC System offices to Raleigh and the possible consolidation of NC public education governance.

GOP Legislators passed a law to move the UNC System office with an eye towards achieving the consolidation that Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger refers to as; “synergies between the UNC System, the North Carolina Community College System, the state Department of Public Instruction and the state Department of Commerce…..[He’d] like to see them all in one building – or at least one campus….Maybe just one building, it may be a couple of buildings, …But I think they need to be in close proximity.”

With the new location being Raleigh, and the Community College System office being right next to the General Assembly, “close proximity” could mean close to the politicians, but this move does not have 100% buy-in. The move is so expensive and controversial that three current and one former Board of Governors members publicly expressed their concerns:

  • Art Pope:
    • “When law is made behind closed doors…, oftentimes it’s not the best legislation.” The transaction “lacks accountability and transparency,” 
    • “We have space here. It’s not costing us $15 million to maintain space here,” he said. “I certainly don’t want to hear about a tuition increase when we’re spending $15 million unnecessarily.”
    • Leo Daughtry:
      • IT SEEMS TO ME that politics has seeped under our buffer”. He added that the UNC System keeps a “political operative” on a retainer. 
      • “It is my opinion that the move from here to Raleigh was done purely on the basis of politics,” 
    • John Fraley: “The reasons to do this seem to be lacking,…This move is going to cost us a lot of money that we do not have to spend – and could cost us $100 million, ultimately.”
    • Lou Bissette: “Members of this board owe their fiduciary duty to the UNC System, and not to the body that appoints them,” 

We would like the Board of Governors to reconsider this move for the reasons stated above.

We’ve learned that this policy change has created huge challenges on campus and request that the UNC Chapel Hill trustees reverse it to fix the issues the new policy has created.