We are seeing signs of a more extreme political assault against UNC – and indeed all of higher education.
Trustees Welcome a Harsh Critic
Heather Mac Donald, a fellow from the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, spoke last week to the external affairs committee of the UNC Board of Trustees. She told the trustees that eliminating affirmative action “will greatly improve the ability of UNC to fulfill its mission of knowledge. What you must understand, if I may be so bold as to say so, is that racial preferences harm their alleged beneficiaries.”
She claimed that affirmative action had led universities to admit unqualified and ill-prepared students – a charge that was immediately countered by a trustee, the Chancellor and the student body president.
Here is a fact check about the most recent UNC-CH 4-year and 6-year graduation rates:
- Overall student body: 83% (4-year); and 92% (6-year);
- Underrepresented students: 77% (4-year); and 90% (6-year);
- First generation college students: 77% (4-year); and 89% (6-year).
Most institutions would be thrilled to have our 4-year graduation rates as their 6-year rates.
Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz told Mac Donald, “There’s one thing I just want to be clear about, and that is that every student at Carolina has earned their way to Carolina.”
Trustee Ralph Meekins said, “UNC was not admitting students that were not qualified.”
Student body President Christopher Everett, an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees, responded to Mac Donald at the full board meeting the next day.
He showed slides highlighting several campus leaders and successful students who are students of color.
“The individuals that I just shared with you all are nothing less than extraordinary, and we earned our spots at Carolina, not because of the color of our skin, but because of the contents of our hearts and the will to make our university a better place,” Everett said. “We are not average. We don’t need handouts. And we definitely did not flunk out when we came to Carolina.”
Korie Dean reported in The News & Observer, “Everett said he hoped the board, when making decisions about guest speakers in the future, would see him and the other students he presented and choose speakers who did not ‘question our worth.’ Everett’s remarks were met with hefty applause from meeting attendees.”
We at the Coalition for Carolina whole-heartedly agree.
Read Dean’s story here: https://www.newsobserver.com/article281684893.html#storylink=cpy
Watch Mac Donald’s presentation to the trustees here: https://www.youtube.com/live/ichgkU_a4Bw?si=hvlVy4v8zWTiCzsV
We don’t know who invited Mac Donald to the committee, but Ramsey White is the committee chair. Mac Donald was introduced by Doug Monroe, acting president of the UNC Alumni Free Speech Alliance.
The Alliance had hosted Mac Donald the night before, where she delivered a wide-ranging and free-wheeling attack on higher education. We respect her right to speak, even as we disagree. Here are highlights from her speech:
- Many Black students are not up to the challenge, but universities are so “desperate to get their numbers of Black students up, even if doing so imposed a terrible handicap on those students”.
- Admissions screening for resilience, leadership and community involvement is “preposterous and condescending” and that “no admissions officer has the capacity to evaluate.”
- University leaders “are committed to a victimhood narrative.”
- She attacked what she labeled as “the diversity/DEI bureaucracy” on campuses.
- She attacked female campus leadership because “females way, way outscore on the trait of neuroticism”.
- She says that not everyone needs to go to a four-year college and proposed that colleges may be able to cut enrollment by as much as 90%.
- She mocked majors such as marketing. “Are you kidding? You should be reading Aeschylus, you idiot.” (Note: We are all for Aeschylus, but the University is a big tent able to accommodate study of ancient Greece and modern business.)
- She concluded with her wish that UNC be reformed to conform to her ideology, but believes today’s universities are “irredeemable.” “It is hard to start a new institution that has that prestige…that’s why I like the re-founding idea of UPenn so much because you’ve got the legacy prestige, but you’re starting out on better principles… maybe UNC will give me reason for hope.” We certainly hope not.
Watch her talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twexKz0fT-s
The National Right-Wing Attack
In an article posted Thursday by Inside Higher Ed, “The Right-Wing Attack on Academia, With a Totalitarian Twist,” John K. Wilson writes:
“Today, conservative activists will launch a public campaign to enact new model legislation called the General Education Act. Behind this bland name is a proposal for the most radical assault on faculty and academic freedom in American history. If the model legislation were to be enacted, lawmakers would force public colleges to adopt a uniform general education curriculum devoted to conservative values, give a new dean near-total power to hire all faculty to teach these classes and then require the firing of many existing faculty members in the humanities and social sciences, including tenured professors.
“The GEA’s extreme ideas are not the babblings of some obscure blogger. They are a joint proposal from three leading conservative groups—the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, and the National Association of Scholars.”
Read Wilson’s article here: https://www.insidehighered.com/opinion/views/2023/11/16/new-front-right-wing-attack-academia-opinion
Where We Stand
At the Coalition for Carolina we believe a diverse Carolina is a strong Carolina and that all students, faculty, and staff from all background belong here. Our mission is to monitor these continued attacks, get out the facts and mobilize our 25,000-plus followers to support the University.
We’ll keep doing that.
Here’s what you can do:
- Educate yourself. Watch Mac Donald’s presentations and read Wilson’s article.
- Share your concerns with friends, colleagues and leaders.
- Email, write and call UNC trustees and legislators.
Tell them to keep Carolina a place where discovery and education are paramount and political agendas are left at the door.