Dear Coalition of Carolina Supporters,

We hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits.

On behalf of entire Coalition, we want to express our deepest gratitude for your steadfast support of our mission to defend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from partisan interference. Your commitment to the principles of Lux Libertas, open inquiry, free speech, equity, and inclusion is truly commendable. Thanks to your generosity, we have expanded our reach and influence, growing our community to over 25,000 dedicated supporters.

Over the past two years, our online initiatives have resonated with a wide audience, reaching more than 2.6 million individuals who engaged with our messaging and content over 625,000 times. The impact of our efforts has only intensified in the past 10.5 months. So far this year, our content has reached an impressive 1,228,930 people, resulting in 459,711 engagements. This significant increase has driven our engagement rate from 24% on average to an outstanding 38% year-to-date.

These statistics underscore the vital importance of our collective endeavors to shine a light on partisan interference and governance overreach that has detrimentally affected our beloved Carolina. Your financial support, outreach to legislators, trustees, and members of the Board of Governors have played a pivotal role in our ability to champion the University’s promise.

As we reflect on the past year, we recognize that none of our achievements would have been possible without your continued support. Your dedication fuels our advocacy, and we are truly grateful for the impact we’ve been able to make together.

In this Thanksgiving season, we want to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks for your ongoing commitment to Carolina. Your belief in our cause is instrumental, and we are fortunate to have you as a vital member of our community.

We wish you and your loved ones a joyous Thanksgiving filled with warmth and gratitude.

Hark the Sound!

With sincere appreciation,

Roger Perry, Mimi Chapman, and Joyce Fitzpatrick

Other Important News: While much has been written about Chancellor Guskiewicz’s potential departure from Carolina, we share the following two pieces with you as must reads:

Little wonder why Kevin Guskiewicz might leave

We have been granted permission by Higher Ed Works to republish the following post in its entirety.

By Paul Fulton

WINSTON-SALEM (November 21, 2023) – There’s little wonder why UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz is entertaining a new job.

Guskiewicz is reportedly a finalist for the presidency at Michigan State University.1 Though he is a nationally renowned expert in neuroscience and concussions, a MacArthur Genius Award winner and a deft administrator, that’s a step down from the chancellorship at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Maybe we just don’t want geniuses running Carolina.

Just look at the environment as Guskiewicz, who became Interim Chancellor in 2019, navigated the University through one of its most tumultuous periods, including:

  • The pandemic, with ever-shifting signals on whether it was safe for students to return to campus.
  • The General Assembly stripped the Governor of any appointments to university boards of trustees and eventually appointments to both state and local community-college boards. 
  • The aftermath of the removal of the Silent Sam statue on campus, including an abortive deal to give the statue to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
  • The UNC Board of Governors didn’t accept a single one of his and a former Board of Trustees Chair’s recommendations for appointees to the Board of Trustees.
  • Foot-dragging by the Board of Trustees on tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones as a Knight Chair in Race and Journalism, and her subsequent rejection of Chapel Hill.2
  • A surprise resolution by the Board of Trustees to create a conservative School of Civic Life and Leadership, blindsiding the chancellor and the faculty.3 This was followed with orchestrated coverage by Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, as well as $4 million and orders from the General Assembly to hire 10-20 faculty members from outside the university.
  • A new law requiring state universities to switch accreditors every time they renew accreditation.4 This is costly, time-consuming and adds no value.
  • A new law that says the state will match donations only for distinguished professorships in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in the future. The new law explicitly precludes state matches for distinguished professorships in journalism and law.5
  •  A public scolding from the now-Chair of the Board of Trustees for pursuing a case to defend what used to be considered the law – consideration of race as one of many factors in admissions.6
  • Departures of a number of key faculty, including Kelly Hogan, Suzanne Barbour, Deen Freelon, William Sturkey and Andrew Perrin.7

MORE BROADLY, consider what’s become of public education in North Carolina. Guskiewicz can be seen as a casualty of a toxic environment that has politicized public education from top to bottom:

  • The state ranks 50th for the percentage of its GDP (gross domestic product) it invests in K-12 public education. In other words, we’re plenty able to invest more in public education, yet we don’t do it to the extent any other state does.
  • Before adoption of a new state budget in October, we ranked an abysmal 46th in starting teacher pay and 34th in average teacher pay.
  • As a result, we saw a 50% drop in the number of education majors across the UNC System from 2010-22.
  • Public schools across the state started this school year with 3,500 K-12 teacher vacancies – and an accompanying increase in classrooms with non-certified teachers.8
  • And the new state budget includes a plan to expand vouchers that give students tax dollars to attend private K-12 schools from $95 million in 2022-23 to $520 million by 2032-33, which will likely divert funds from public schools. The budget also removes any income limits for these subsidies for private schools.9

AMID THIS ENVIRONMENT of political and ideological interference, it’s no wonder Guskiewicz is considering other options.

Yet as noted above, he has steered the University through some of the most trying times in its 234-year history. He has shown courage and independence in the process.

He likes to speak of the university’s “low stone walls” – a metaphor for how researchers from different disciplines readily collaborate in their work.

There is real beauty in that.

It’s exemplified by the critical research of virologist Dr. Ralph Baric and the work of alumna Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who oversaw the rapid development of a vaccine for Covid – a development not just for North Carolina or the United States, but for all of humanity. 

A week after the U.S. Supreme Court banned use of race in admissions this summer, he announced the university would cover tuition and fees for any student from a family with household income under $80,000.

That’s a laudable effort to stay true to the University’s tradition of access for students from all income levels – even if members of the Board of Governors didn’t like it.10

Though no one could blame him, if and when he does leave, it will undoubtedly open an opportunity for still more political meddling by Republican legislators and the Board of Governors.

I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen. But recent experience tells me it will.

I WAS A REPUBLICAN all my adult life, until both parties became too extreme and I saw the micro-meddling by Republicans in the NC General Assembly in our world-renowned University of North Carolina System.

I’m now unaffiliated with any political party. The largest group of voters in North Carolina – voters who favor public education – is unaffiliated as well. There’s a reason for that.

Republicans are clearly now a minority political party. Yet they are clearly in charge of public education in our state.

Is this what we want? I don’t want either party dabbling in public education. It was not that way when I was on the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees or the UNC System Board of Governors. 

And it should not be that way today.

Paul Fulton, of Winston-Salem, is a former president of Sara Lee Corp.; former dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC; former trustee at UNC-Chapel Hill; former member of the UNC Board of Governors; and Chair of Higher Ed Works. 

Follow this link to access this content on the Higher Ed Works website.

9, pp. 187-197.

A New Assault on Carolina is Happening

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:

Watch Mac Donald’s presentation to the trustees here:

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:

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:

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.

The N.C. Legislature Strikes Again – at Distinguished Professorships

You could call it revenge politics.

Once again, the North Carolina General Assembly is sticking its heavy hand into academics at Carolina – and taking revenge on the legislature’s critics.

This time, the legislature’s target is distinguished professorships at the University, specifically in law and journalism as targets. The humanities and social sciences will be hurt as well.

Lawmakers decreed that the state will no longer provide matching funds for new distinguished professorships at public universities, except those in science, technology, engineering or math degree programs. They’ve been providing matching funds since 1985 with the goal of incentivizing donors.

This is raw political retribution, and it is aimed directly at Carolina. UNC and N.C. State hold close to 90% of distinguished professorships.

UNC is internationally recognized for its journalism school, law school, and social science and humanities departments.  Indeed, Carolina’s commitment to the liberal arts has been the University’s “special sauce” contributing to innovation and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Yet, lawyers, journalists, and others in the arts and humanities, including many from UNC, have a history of holding the powerful to account.

In North Carolina today, powerful legislators don’t like being questioned or criticized.

Since they have a super-majority and can override Governor Roy Cooper’s vetoes, they feel empowered to do as they will – and punish anyone who pushes back.

This is one more case of the ongoing political interference that threatens the excellence and the reputation of a great university.

Once again, it came in an obscure provision tucked into the 1,400-page, $30 billion state budget that was written in secret and rammed through the legislature in 36 hours on a party-line vote with no notice, no debate and no public discussion.

That’s how the legislature also dictated action on the controversial, right-of-center School of Civic Life and Leadership. See our earlier post.

Carolina will have a harder time retaining and recruiting outstanding faculty members. Other universities across the country will poach promising, up and coming professors away from UNC by offering distinguished professorships when we can’t.

The best students may see this as a signal they should enroll elsewhere.

This is chilling.

Legislative leaders may congratulate themselves for punishing pesky professors, lawyers and journalists who dare to challenge the powers-that-be.

Actually, they are punishing the young people who come to Carolina for a broad education that makes them not only good employees, but good citizens and good people.

Today’s students will be retiring 50 years from today, in the 2070s. They will live and work in a world we cannot imagine.

An understanding of history, literature, languages, social sciences, the arts and the humanities will be critical.

The legislature is treating those studies – and our students – with contempt.

The students deserve better. The University deserves better. The people of North Carolina deserve better.

Legislature Mandates Rapid Action On Controversial UNC School

Faculty and administrators at Carolina are grappling with a new mandate from the

North Carolina General Assembly – “because we have to,” as one said.

Today we present two reports on the “School of Civic Life and Leadership” that legislators

and trustees are pushing.

In the 1,400-page state budget passed last month, the legislature inserted a provision that:

  • Appropriates $4 million for the school.
  • Requires that 10-20 faculty members be hired from outside the university.
  • Requires that a dean be hired by the end of this year.

The Coalition for Carolina has expressed our concern about political interference

that can damage the University’s reputation for academic excellence.

We’ll be watching what happens with the school. We’ll keep you posted.

While presenting both reports makes for a longer than desired newsletter, we’re including both posts to conveniently give you the full perspective. 

Goldstein: Lemons to lemonade – The UNC School of Civic Life

(This was originally posted by Higher Ed Works on October 19, 2023)

By Buck Goldstein

CHAPEL HILL (October 19, 2023) – I’ve attended many faculty meetings at UNC Chapel Hill over the last 20 years. I assumed I had heard everything.

Between the athletics controversies, the removal of Silent Sam, Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenure application and now the School of Civic Life and Leadership, the faculty seems to have touched all the bases. The meetings are characterized by challenging questions, off-the-wall reactions, and carefully lawyered statements.

But on October 6, I got an unexpected surprise. Jim White, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, was concluding a status review of the new School of Civic Life and Leadership when an obviously angry faculty member asked, “Why are we even doing this?”

White paused for fully five seconds.

Then he looked up and said, “Because we have to.”

The response was deafening silence. White’s candid, clear, and transparent response was so powerful there was nothing else to say.

THE BACKSTORY to this jawdropping moment of candor began when the UNC Board of Trustees –  without any consultation with the faculty or the Chancellor – announced the creation of a School of Civic Life. Members of the Board followed up with a series of media interviews that humiliated the Chancellor and the faculty, ignoring the basic norms of shared governance.

The Trustees made no attempt to hide their objective. They intend to hire conservative professors to balance out their perception that UNC students are being brainwashed by liberal faculty. To top it off, the North Carolina legislature chose to get into the weeds and included in the new state budget instructions on the number of faculty to be hired, the administrative structure, and a timetable for implementation, among other details.1

As it turns out, while legislators were tinkering with matters they knew little or nothing about, UNC faculty and administrators concluded they could turn the lemons they were handed into lemonade.

CHANCELLOR KEVIN Guskiewicz and Provost Chris Clemens decided at the outset that the new School would be housed in the College of Arts & Sciences and its leader would report to the Dean of the College.

Dean White then convened a group of faculty thought leaders and told them the new School must be faculty-led and built to last beyond the current political climate.

They responded by defining the school as: (1) providing a home specifically for the study and practice of public discourse, civic life and civic leadership; (2) providing an intellectual grounding in democracy and the American political experience; and (3) serving to support conversations and research on these topics.

The day before Dean White’s presentation to the faculty, he named an acting director of the new School and nine distinguished professors who will begin teaching classes in the spring. They include:

  • A history professor who writes for both academia and The New York Times on religion;
  • A music professor who receives funding from the State Department to bring American hip-hop artists to Africa;
  • A philosopher who studies the ethics of artificial intelligence; and
  • A communication studies professor who advises Republican political campaigns.

Sadly, the inaugural faculty does not include any professors of color. It has been reported that none applied or agreed to be nominated.2

At the end of his presentation, Dean White stressed that by adhering to basic university processes and norms, the new School will be built to last. By attracting distinguished professors who are also great teachers, the School will appeal to a broad range of students. Embedded in the College of Arts & Sciences, the School has been embraced by professors from the disciplines that are foundational to a liberal education and therefore will be perceived as a serious endeavor.

Hopefully the hard work to make the new School a reality will be recognized for what it is – a goodfaith effort to embrace what began as a declaration of war with the faculty – and turn it into something worthy of the nation’s first public university.

This good faith was demonstrated by the new acting Director, Sarah Treul Roberts, who told a reporter: “This is an amazing opportunity, as a faculty member, to get to build something and develop an entire new school from more or less scratch. It’s one of those opportunities that I think there will be ample interest in across all viewpoints, across all backgrounds, across all ideologies.”3

At the end of Dean White’s presentation, someone asked, “Do you think you will be able to pull this off without interference?”

His answer: “I certainly hope so.”

Buck Goldstein, a Professor of the Practice in the School of Education and University Entrepreneur in Residence at UNC Chapel Hill, retired from the faculty June 30.

1, pp. 161-162.
3 Ibid.

The uncivil origins of the School of Civic Life and Leadership at UNC

(This was originally posted by NC Newsline on October 19, 2023)


Civil discourse in a democratic society must entail more than a polite exchange of views. It must also entail honesty, freedom from coercion, and commitment to rules that all participants understand and agree to, and which are not subject to unilateral change by one party seeking advantage.

Ironically, all of these characteristics have largely been absent from the process through which UNC-Chapel Hill’s new School of Civic Life and Leadership has been created. The very process through which the school has come about was both undemocratic and contrary to basic principles of civil discourse.

The new school was swathed in dishonesty from the start. As far back as 2017, the UNC system Board of Governors, a group consisting mainly of Republican political appointees, began entertaining the idea of creating a “conservative center”—to use UNC Provost Chris Clemens’s words—to offset a perceived liberal bias among UNC faculty.

In 2017, the board invited Princeton University professor Robert “Robby” George, described by New York Times Magazine as America’s “most influential conservative Christian thinker,” to talk about the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions that George had founded at Princeton.

Professor George advised against creating a program that might look like no more than a safe space for conservative snowflakes. Better to promote such a program, George suggested, as aimed at “expanding the range of viewpoints” on campus. But this language was a bit of public relations legerdemain, as George surely knew.

Two of the principal funders of George’s James Madison Program, the ultraconservative John M. Olin Foundation and the equally far-right Bradley Foundation, knew what they were getting for their money: a conservative beachhead in academia from which to wage battle against liberal ideas. 

But right-wing ideological warriors knew that a frontal assault would provoke stronger opposition. James Piereson, executive director of the Olin Foundation, advised a strategy of depicting these conservative outposts as benign efforts to add new voices and criticize reigning orthodoxies. Piereson went on to say that the best infiltration strategy is to co-opt a handful of sympathetic faculty members to push proposals from the inside, using claims of academic freedom to fend off objections from other faculty.    

Talk of balance and “expanding the range of viewpoints” was thus always rhetorical camouflage, not an honest description of what was afoot—at Princeton, at other universities around the country, and later at UNC-Chapel Hill. This language, however, does more than mask its users’ true intent. It also distorts the conversation by seeking to compel agreement about the dubious claim that there exists a lack of balance or viewpoint diversity in academia. Anyone who rejects this claim enters the conversation on the back foot and must do extra work to show that what others presume to be true is not.  

Of course, the point was never to have an open-ended discussion of what was really going on in the university, as was demonstrated time and again when UNC faculty politely argued that the conservative framing of the situation was inaccurate—and were ignored. The point was to promote conservative ideology against imagined liberal foes, and to minimize resistance by using dishonest and manipulative language.  

Dishonesty continued to blot the process of creating the school. When the UNC Board of Trustees passed a resolution in January 2023—much to the surprise and consternation of UNC faculty and administrators—directing UNC administrators to get busy creating the new school, the trustees’ defense of the proposal used the language of “promoting democracy” and “building skills in public discourse.” But this was just more smoke blown in faculty faces, though clearly a few were willing to inhale

A little over two months earlier, at the board’s fall 2022 retreat, trustees were tutored by Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. ACTA touts itself as non-partisan and committed to supporting liberal arts education, upholding high academic standards, and safeguarding the free exchange of ideas on campus. Again the language is tuned to charm academics.

But ACTA, like the James Madison Program, is funded by the same group of right-wing donors—the Olin Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, the Koch Foundation, among others—whose true interests are economic. The freedom they’re seeking is to create academic spaces in which to promote free-market fundamentalism, small government, privatization, and lower taxes on corporations and the rich. They also hope to obscure their own efforts to undermine public discourse in U.S. society. 

To these economic actors, democracy matters only in as much as it threatens their power. One way to manage this threat is to create islands in universities, under the guise of championing viewpoint diversity, to help train conservative intellectuals—or at least inoculate students against critiques of corporate capitalism and free-market ideology. ACTA’s role in the process is to encourage trustees to aggressively pursue the curricular changes necessary to make this happen. After the UNC trustees passed the resolution that fast-tracked the School of Civic Life and Leadership, ACTA proudly took credit for inspiring it. 

A glimmer of truth shone through the cracks shortly after the resolution was passed. David Boliek, chair of the UNC Board of Trustees, told Fox News that there is “no shortage of left-of-center, progressive views” on the UNC campus and that the School of Civic Life and Leadership “is an effort to remedy that.” As if that wasn’t enough to give away the ruse, Boliek and trustees vice-chair John Preyer boasted to the Wall Street Journal that the new school would end “political constraints on what can be taught in university classes.” A subsequent WSJ editorial lauded the victory. 

Sadly, though not surprisingly, well-paid administrators at UNC have joined in gaslighting the faculty. In an email announcing nine faculty appointments to the new school, Jim White, dean of UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, described the creation of the school as a “faculty-driven process.” Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Faculty balked from the start, for the obvious reason that courses, curricula, and degree programs are the proper domain of subject-matter experts—faculty—not political appointees. As former UNC chancellor Holden Thorp said when asked to comment: “The board doesn’t have the ability to propose a class, to propose a degree, or—for God’s sake—to propose a school.” A true conservative, with due respect for the traditional governance structures of academia, would know that Thorp is right.     

So what rule of civil discourse can be inferred from how the UNC Board of Governors, the UNC Board of Trustees, and UNC administrators have behaved in this affair? Perhaps the rule is this: the powerless shall listen civilly when those who have captured the reins of the state proclaim that black is white, up is down, day is night. 

That’s actually an old rule, one that dominant groups have often used to discredit angry complaints from below. “Not that we’re going to do anything differently,” the subtext goes, “but if y’all aren’t going to be polite when you complain, we won’t let you speak at all.” Thus is the exercise of power covered with a veneer of civility. 

We might ask why university professors, hardly an oppressed group by historical standards, don’t react more militantly when they’re being snowed. One answer is that faculty, by virtue of training and inclination, retain a touching faith in genuine civil discourse—a belief that reason, evidence, and respectful argument will prevail. And so faculty participate politely, misled by a façade of civility into believing that what they say will make a difference. 

Not all faculty are so naïve, of course; and even those who might appear naive know that, vis-à-vis legislators, boards of governors, trustees, and administrators, they are not participating in a process of civil dialogue as equals. Which is to say, they are participating in a process under conditions that make real civil discourse impossible.  

Why? Because one side—in this case, the side of right-wing legislators and their minions—can coerce the other into agreement. One side controls the purse strings; one side is backed by the state; one side can materially hurt the other in myriad ways. This isn’t paranoia; it’s simply a recognition of how the system works. Faculty at UNC who watched the Board of Governors shut down the UNC Center on Work, Poverty, and Opportunity and prohibit the UNC Center for Civil Rights from litigating for civil rights know full well how things can play out when push comes to shove. 

Under these conditions of inequality between participants in a supposed process of civil discourse, an open sharing of views is not possible; reason can always be trumped by power; and demands by the powerful for civility amount to demands that the less powerful graciously accept their subordination. 

Earlier I mentioned a third condition necessary for civil discourse to occur: commitment to rules that all participants understand and agree to, and which are not subject to unilateral change by one party seeking advantage. As soon as the trustees stepped out of their lane and ordered the creation of courses, curricula, and a whole school, this rule was violated, as Holden Thorp pointedly noted. That’s why some faculty reported being “flabbergasted” by the trustees’ resolution.  

The party seeking advantage, in this case an ideologically-driven faction seeking to weaponize higher education in North Carolina, changed long-established rules in midstream, leaving faculty and some equally baffled administrators looking around and wondering what had happened. A few months later, Republican legislators cemented the victory by inserting funding for the new school into the state budget. By the time faculty realized they had brought a wiffle bat to a hardball game, the game was over. 

To call it “ironic” that a school supposedly dedicated to civic discourse has come about through an uncivil process is perhaps too nice. Irony, after all, can arise when bad luck perverts good intentions. But that’s not the case here. The intentions all along were to misrepresent what was being created and to use institutional power, not the force of honest, principled argument, to override objections. What this shows, yet again, are the limits of reason in the face of power and the need, sometimes, for impolite disruption. 

Stop the Dangerous Sneak Attacks on UNC Accreditation

Dr. Jerry Lucido from Coalition for Carolina’s Accreditation Webinar

With no notice and no debate, the North Carolina General Assembly pushed through a controversial change that will hurt Carolina.

Higher Ed Works recently reported that “as most of North Carolina [were] sifting through 1,400 pages of a new, $30 billion state budget, Sen. Michael Lee slipped a provision from an unrelated bill into HB8 to require North Carolina colleges and universities to change accrediting agencies every cycle.” (Follow this link to read more.)

This is alarming, concerning, and requires outreach to legislators and the governor to stop it.

In the above video, Dr. Jerry Lucido describes how the NC legislature’s attempt to force an accreditor change on UNC System Schools would be extremely damaging to Carolina and others.

The move appears to be a continuation of NC Senate efforts to push an extremely costly, unnecessary, and burdensome change to the accreditation process on all UNC system schools and such a move could put Carolina’s accreditation at risk.

In May of this year, the Coalition held a webinar to explain the dangers of such a move.  Please follow this link to access the recording from our accreditation webinar.  During that webinar experts explained the dangers of forcing this change–along with the pros of staying with the current accreditor.  Additionally, Dr. Holden Thorp explained what might be motivating the NC Senate to make such a dangerous move.  Here is a clip of that explanation.

Dr. Holden Thorp from Coalition for Carolina Accreditation Webinar

What can you do to stop this dangerous, extreme, political and costly action? 

Contact Governor Cooper if you do not support the accreditation change requirement in House Bill 8 and ask him to veto House Bill 8 (HB8) where Senator Lee snuck in this requirement.

Contact legislators if you do not support the accreditation change requirement in HB8 and let them know that you would like any veto to be sustained.

 Here is a link to help you find your legislators.

UNC Trustee Boliek Announces Political Campaign

Dave Boliek, outgoing chairman of the Board of Trustees, has announced that he is running for the Republican nomination for State Auditor in 2024. He apparently plans to stay on the board if he runs. Here is a link to his website announcing the run.

This raises questions.

Will Boliek do what’s right for Carolina – or what helps his campaign?  And, has he been campaigning all along?

What do his past decisions actually mean in light of his consideration for elected office?

Boliek has taken ideologically contentious actions. In 2021, he was one of just four of the 13 trustees to vote against tenure for Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

As chair, he has pushed the controversial, conservative-leaning “School of Civic Life and Leadership,” despite a lack of input from the faculty and administration.

Boliek went on Fox News – he was introduced as someone “who helped create the school” – to say its purpose is to promote “right-of-center views.” Could a run for statewide office be related to pushing this “viewpoint diversity” perspective forward?

The position of statewide auditor is not benign and unrelated to higher education policy. Take the example of the Mississippi state auditor who recently started “[c]alling numerous social science and humanities degree programs ‘indoctrination factories,’ …[and] says the state should defund several college majors and invest in subjects that match the state’s workforce needs.”  Click this link to read more.

Public education policy has become highly politicized recently from pre-K-12 school boards to higher education governance bodies.  In an interview this month, Boliek said his work as a trustee and chairman is “a good segue into statewide leadership.”

It may be good for Boliek the politician who has been crystal clear that he wants to promote “right-of-center views. But is it good for Carolina, the university system, or the state of North Carolina?

No Joking Matter, Mr. Speaker

As UNC students were being removed from the North Carolina House gallery last week for protesting against gun violence, Speaker Tim Moore laughed, joked that the protesters must secretly be Duke students and quipped; “This is not a pep rally.”  

They know that, Mr. Speaker.

The next day, the campus was on lockdown again. Another man with a gun was on campus. Students hid under desks, and faculty and staff sequestered in dark offices to the sound of sirens and helicopters.  

Speaker Moore’s response? He questioned why the campus is a gun-free zone.

“You’re not just going to snap your fingers and get rid of guns,” he said. “That’s not reality; criminals are going to have guns. And the best deterrent against a criminal with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

More guns and more jokes are not what we need, Mr. Speaker.

As we went on lockdown for the second time this month, we wondered: Would another member of the Carolina family be dead? Should we expect copycats or clusters? Are we doing better in our preparation than we were two weeks ago? Is this how we live on this campus?

Some of us have been with Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz during these terrible and terrifying moments. He feels the impact deeply. He knows how these incidents compromise the work of this institution and the well-being of those who work, live and study here.

He takes calls from worried parents, provides counseling resources for the campus and sits with grieving families.

Speaker Moore, you are supposed to represent every North Carolinian, not just those who agree with you on policy issues. Students were asking for action that ensures their safety on campus. That is no joking matter.

The Chancellor met the test of leadership. Speaker Moore failed it.

Political Paycheck Protection

Jim Blaine’s Firms Took PPP: Political Paycheck Protection.

Consulting firms owned by Jim Blaine, the long-time Republican political operative who was recently appointed to the UNC Board of Trustees, took over $80,000 in federal PPP bailouts – while being paid $800,000 by the UNC system.

Yes, a firm that advises right-wing clients on bashing the big-spending federal government’s bailouts and handouts happily took federal bailouts.

Danielle Battaglia of The News & Observer reported the PPP loans, which were forgiven, in a story headlined, “How US allowed pandemic relief to go to NC companies involved in politics and lobbying.”

The story said:

“Martin & Blaine, also known as The Differentiators and based in Raleigh, received a $59,620 loan on April 15, 2020, according to a database maintained by ProPublica. Jim Blaine and Ray Martin, who both previously worked for state Senate leader Phil Berger, own the firm….”

“A former company of Blaine’s, Blaine Consulting, LLC, also received a $20,832 PPP loan and had the loan and interest forgiven.”

The two loans totaled $80,452.

The N&O noted that companies engaged in lobbying or political activities could get loans “only if lobbying or political activity were not their ‘primary’ lines of work.”

In 2020, the N&O reported, Blaine and Martin worked together on a lieutenant governor’s race, a congressional race and with an organization raising money to ensure that Republicans maintain control of the North Carolina House and Senate.

Blaine is former chief of staff to Berger, the state Senate leader, and Martin is Berger’s former spokesman. Currently, they are advising Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop on his campaign for state attorney general.

They also work closely with Club for Growth Action, a conservative super PAC, the N&O reported.

From 2019 until this year, Blaine and Martin’s firm had a $15,000-a-month contract as “strategic advisers” to the UNC system.

They were paid over $800,000 during the same time they received PPP money.

They had to give up the contract when Blaine was appointed recently to the UNC Board of Trustees.

Martin told the N&O: “Our business has diverse revenue streams — very few of them involve political campaigns and zero of them involve lobbying. Like many small businesses, we lost work when the pandemic hit and we were concerned about the future.”

Bob Hall, a longtime elections watchdog and analyst of North Carolina politics, told the N&O that The Differentiators get a “huge amount of money” for political work.

“Maybe they also get a huge amount of money through corporate work,” Hall said. “But there’s no question that they’re a substantial political force in North Carolina. They remain behind the scenes but they’re still well-known and well paid.”

Perhaps, given his PPP experience, Blaine will be a strong supporter of student-loan forgiveness on the Board of Trustees.

N&O story:

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