Roger Perry Responds to Marty Kotis’ Attack on Our Webinar with Lee Roberts

Just a few hours after UNC Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts engaged in an open and respectful conversation with the Coalition for Carolina, trustee Marty Kotis, once again, pulled out his political hatchet and started swinging away at us.

Kotis misrepresented our coalition, called former UNC System President Margaret Spellings a “RINO” and dismissed Chancellor Roberts’ participation in our webinar as “trying to play nice.”

It didn’t take Kotis long to attack us. Our webinar with the Chancellor ended at 11:45 am Wednesday, and his comments were posted in an article by Joe Killian of Newsline at 2:39 pm.

The article said, “Roberts sitting down with the coalition is part of his being open to everyone as the University’s new chancellor,” Kotis said,” but not something he would personally do as a trustee.”

Kotis’ comments are contrary to the spirit that Roberts demonstrated throughout the hour and 15 minutes – and to the open, non-partisan and fact-based debate that the University needs at this critical time.

At the beginning of the webinar, the interim chancellor said “debate about the future is good.” He welcomed “a respectful exchange of ideas.”

Kotis seems more interested in an exchange of insults.

He called our coalition “a political organization.”

That’s not true. We are 501c3 and c4 organizations that have only one primary mission.  That mission is to advocate for Carolina’s faculty and administration against governance overreach from the Board of Trustees and others. With the guidance of some of North Carolina’s best attorneys, we strictly adhere to the laws governing such organizations. We do not engage in partisan politics.

Kotis took a shot at me: “I think he (Roger Perry) ended one of his videos basically telling people that they need to vote at the polls. And so, you know, we know what that means. If you don’t like what’s happening at the University, vote Democrat. They are using the topic of the University as a wedge issue.”

As I recall, I did do so unapologetically.  I am proud of encouraging North Carolinians to vote. Does Kotis not want everyone eligible, to vote?

The Newsline article noted that Kotis “has sparred with the Coalition and its founders since its founding.”

Killian wrote:

“The group concentrates on divisive political issues surrounding the University and UNC System, Kotis said, without spending an equal amount of time talking about the university’s many successes and laudable metrics.”

Kotis is partly right. We’re concerned because some trustees and the North Carolina General Assembly are using “divisive political issues” in a way that jeopardizes “the University’s many successes and laudable metrics.”

As the Newsline article noted, our coalition is nonpartisan. We are Democrats, Republicans and Independents. We are alumni, faculty members and supporters of the University. We are former trustees and Board of Governors members who, as Killian wrote, “are concerned about the politicization of the university and political overreach by the legislature.”  We are nearly 30,000 strong.

Killian reported:

“The group emphasized that bipartisan concern in a recent webinar discussion with former UNC System Presidents Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings, a Democrat and Republican respectively, who co-chaired the governor’s commission that produced a series of reform suggestions.”

Kotis replied by calling Spellings, who served as secretary of education under former President George W. Bush, a “RINO” — Republican in Name Only.

That’s insulting to Spellings. It’s immaterial. And it’s hurtful to UNC.

The University would be better served if trustee Kotis emulated the open, nonpartisan spirit that Interim Chancellor Roberts demonstrated in our webinar.

Roger Perry of Chapel Hill, a UNC graduate, served on the Board of Trustees from 2002-2010 and as chair of the trustees from 2006-2008. He is a co-founder of the Coalition for Carolina.

A Big Step Forward: UNC System President and Board of Governors Rein in Trustees at Carolina

UNC President Peter Hans and the UNC System Board of Governors have taken significant – and laudable – action to support sound leadership to UNC-Chapel Hill.

In an “Administrative Memorandum” to Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts and trustees’ Chair John Preyer, President Hans and BOG Chair Randy Ramsey:

  • Made clear that trustees “shall refrain from directing matters of administrative or executive action except through the chancellor.”
  • Empowered the chancellor to set agendas for trustees’ meetings and required trustees to submit requests for agenda items to the chancellor in advance and in writing.
  • Took back from the trustees, authority for a series of personnel actions – and assigned that authority to the interim chancellor.

The memo from is dated January 12, the same day Roberts took over as interim chancellor. While it was sent two months ago, it came to public notice only last week.

Read it here: https://coalitionforcarolinafoundation.org/letter-from-ramsey-and-hans-to-preyer-and-roberts/

Hear, Hear!

The Coalition for Carolina applauds President Hans and BOG Chair Ramsey for their action.

On December 14 of last year, we posted a petition urging Hans and Ramsey to:

  • “Stop trustees’ improper interference at Carolina,” and
  • “Ensure that the next Chancellor at Carolina maintains the standard of excellence that we all expect at America’s oldest and greatest state public university.”

Read our petition here: https://coalitionforcarolinafoundation.org/sign-our-petition-stop-the-political-meddling-that-chased-away-chancellor-guskiewicz/

The January 12 memorandum is a giant step in the right direction.

It says:

“These important actions are taken simultaneously to empower the interim chancellor to lead UNC-Chapel Hill and act decisively in the best interests of the University. While these actions necessarily rebalance the roles and responsibilities of the Office of Chancellor and the role of the Board of Trustees, empowering the interim chancellor by treating UNC Chapel Hill similarly to every other campus within the University System is an important step to maintain the excellence of UNC Chapel Hill.”

We could not agree more.

The memo is written with legal precision, and it is crisp and clear. It concludes: “We look forward to continuing to work with the UNC Chapel Hill leadership to stay apprised of these efforts.”

Trustees’ Role is “Advisory”

The memo said, “The role of the constituent institution boards of trustees is to promote the sound development of the institution by serving in an advisory capacity to the Board of Governors and the chancellor” (emphasis added).

Roberts echoed that language when he participated in a webinar with our coalition March 20. He said then that trustees’ role should be “guidance, advice and advocacy.” He made clear that “I report to the system president, Peter Hans, as everybody knows.”

Too often in recent years, individual trustees have improperly inserted themselves into university operations, including admissions, personnel and even academics, such as the creation of the controversial new School of Civic Life and Leadership.

While we may not agree with Interim Chancellor Roberts on every issue, we believe he should have authority to lead UNC without improper interference by trustees.

Agenda Authority

President Hans and the BOG put the interim chancellor clearly in charge of deciding the agenda for meetings of the full board of trustees and its committees, “in consultation” with the chairs “as appropriate.”

The memo said:

“Every request for inclusion of an item on the agenda of a meeting shall be put in writing and filed, together with any supporting documents, with the interim chancellor sufficiently far in advance of the meeting to permit a determination to be made by the interim chancellor with respect to the propriety and practicability of including that item on the agenda for the meeting.”

We hope this process will avoid the debacle that led to Heather Mac Donald, a right-wing critic of higher education, speaking to a trustees’ committee last November, where she launched an unjustified and unsupported assault on the very things that make UNC great.

The memo reminded trustees that UNC bylaws provide for agendas to be made available at least seven days before regular meetings and four days before special meetings.

Personnel Authority

The memo “updated” – in reality, withdrew – previous delegations of authority to the board of trustees on personnel matters:

“To better align UNC Chapel Hill’s delegation of authority regarding personnel actions with the rest of the UNC System, this administrative memorandum suspends and modifies UNC Chapel Hill’s delegation of authority … to provide that, notwithstanding any previous delegation made to UNC Chapel Hill’s board of trustees, the interim chancellor, or the interim chancellor’s designee, shall have the authority to execute…personnel actions,” including:

  • Appointment or reappointment of a faculty member to a tenure-track position.
  • Appointments of special faculty, associate or assistant deans, department heads or chairs, associate or assistant vice chancellors, members of the chancellor’s staff, among others.
  • Salary adjustments, including for athletics coaches.
  • Faculty rank promotions.
  • The final section on “Tier I SAAO Selection” indicates that is the Chancellor’s decision to appoint search committees and select these individuals. Positions like this include: Executive Vice Chancellor, Provost, Vice Chancellor, Dean, or Directors of major administrative, educational, research, and public services activities.  Again, this is a directive to allow the Chancellor to do their job without interference.

A Final Thought

Since we founded the Coalition for Carolina more than two years ago, we have pushed back against political interference and trustees’ overreach that we believe have damaged Carolina.

This battle is not won. Still, this action by President Hans and the Board of Governors is encouraging.

We believe our efforts have played some part in this progress. We take pride in that.

At the same time, we know that much work remains to be done.

We hope you will join us, read our reports and support our efforts – by passing on this information, by making your voice heard and, if you see fit, by making a financial donation to the Coalition for Carolina.

Hark the sound.

Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts Vows to be Fair, Open-Minded and Nonpartisan

Lee Roberts told the Coalition for Carolina last week he will be fair, open-minded and nonpartisan as UNC’s interim chancellor.

In a wide-ranging 75-minute webinar, Roberts also said:

  • It’s “not my perspective” that there is a “liberal bias” at Carolina.
  • The role of UNC Trustees should be “guidance, advice and advocacy.” He emphasized that he reports directly to UNC System President Peter Hans.
  • The controversial new School of Civic Life and Leadership will be a “tremendous asset” to UNC.

More than 200 people watched the webinar live. Dr. Mimi Chapman and Roger Perry, two of our co-founders, moderated and posed questions to Roberts. You can watch the webinar here: LINK

“A respectful exchange of ideas”

In his opening remarks, Roberts said, “By any metric, Carolina is an extremely strong institution, whether you look at enrollment, public support, research funding or the success of our students and alumni. We have a lot of momentum, and I hope that people are proud of that….

“It’s a testament to the vision that we’ve had here in North Carolina and the confidence that everyone in leadership in North Carolina, no matter their political party or their partisan affiliation, have placed in higher education…

“I also think the arguments and debates about the future of Carolina are a good thing. They show how much people care about our university, how deeply they’re invested, how much this university matters to our state and to American higher education.

“We teach our students to value a respectful exchange of ideas. And I think we’re at our best as a university when we embrace that spirit and get everyone talking around the same table.”

During the Q&A, Roberts defended his work as state budget director under Governor Pat McCrory and responded to concerns about his relationship with Art Pope, a prominent conservative and founder of the John Locke Foundation.

Roberts said he is registered as an unaffiliated voter and promised, “I’ll be nonpartisan and open-minded.”

A “liberal bias”?

Chapman asked Roberts to respond to charges that there is a “liberal bias” among faculty members.

He said, “That’s not my perspective. We have talented faculty who work hard every day to educate students on their fields of expertise inside the classroom. Are there certain discussions about political views within certain spaces outside the classroom? Of course, absolutely. That’s where our job as a global university is to ensure that this is a place where all viewpoints can be heard, considered, debated.

“We have a responsibility to our students and to the broader community to share expertise, serve as a forum for debate and consider challenging viewpoints….

“I don’t think we should be afraid of having those conversations, so long as we’re respectful of other people’s opinions and allow a diversity of viewpoints to be heard.”

He said he came to the webinar immediately following a meeting with the Committee on Academic Freedom and Free Speech. The committee, he said, is making recommendations that will be important to the campus.

Role of UNC Trustees

Perry asked Roberts to address our concern that some trustees have interfered improperly in areas such as curriculum development.

Roberts said, “the trustees are an important source of guidance and advice on the overall direction of the university. They’re also important advocates for the university” to the Board of Governors and the General Assembly.

He added, “I report to the system president, Peter Hans, as everybody knows.”

He said, “we have a somewhat complex system,” with the board of trustees, Board of Governors, the system office and the General Assembly, “but my reporting line is clear, to the system president.”

He said he is aware there is “significant anxiety” surrounding governance issues. The proper balance of governance responsibilities “is obviously not perfectly clear every day on every issue and we have to navigate our way through that.”

Roberts said he hasn’t read the report of the Governor’s Commission on the Governance of Public Universities in North Carolina.

We encourage him to read it, as the report addresses a number of governance issues and proposes thoughtful recommendations for reform.

School of Civic Life and Leadership

Our coalition believes the creation of this school is a case of trustees’ overreach. Also, faculty members dispute the claim by the trustees’ chair that the school grew out of “six years of faculty planning.” We asked Roberts to respond.

He said the school “is going to be a tremendous asset to the university and, from what I’ve seen, should be a source of pride to Carolina.”

He said, “I’ve spent time with the new dean, Jed Atkins. His academic record is unimpeachable.” Roberts called him “an exciting addition to the Carolina community.”

Roberts added, “if we look around our society, we certainly don’t see a surplus of civility and civil discourse, so I think there’s a significant need” for the school.

“To the extent there are still skeptics out there,” he said, “I urge them to get involved in the work of the school and help build it into something we’ll all be proud of.”

Advocating for Faculty

Asked by Perry about his role in advocating for the faculty and for faculty compensation, Roberts said, “nothing we do is possible without world-class faculty, and we depend on the energy and talent of our researchers and teachers, so we obviously have to stay competitive.”

He added, “faculty salaries are objectively quantifiable, and I look forward to seeing more data on where we stand.”

Perry said faculty compensation was in the top quartile 10-12 years ago “and now it’s at the bottom of the third quartile or even into the fourth quartile…. We do have a strong concern that that’s a major issue.”

Roberts said, “that kind of data is very helpful, very compelling, when it comes to advocacy.”

Other Topics

Values: Asked to describe the values he brings to his position, Roberts responded: “Eagerness to listen and learn. Fair and open-minded. Empathy and humility.”

Priorities: He said he has appointed four working groups to report by August 1 on:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Updating the campus physical master plan
  • Examining applied science offerings, and
  • Assessing the size of enrollment.

Role of research: He said the General Assembly, the Board of Governors and North Carolina’s congressional delegation – and the average North Carolinian – don’t have a full appreciation for the contributions that research at UNC makes to the state. He said he would seek to address that.

Our Reaction

We were gratified that the interim chancellor was willing to engage in a discussion with us, knowing that we have been critical of recent developments on campus.

He chose his words carefully, avoiding any political minefields. His answers obviously will not satisfy all of his critics. But we welcome his openness, and we look forward to continuing a constructive conversation with him about the future of Carolina.

Former UNC Leaders Map a Path for the Future

Three former leaders of the University of North Carolina shared hope that we can overcome political “chaos” and “shenanigans” and restore sound, positive leadership to the UNC System and to Carolina.

Former system presidents Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings and former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp addressed the problems – and the potential – in a on February 15, 2024.

With Thorp moderating, Ross and Spellings discussed the 2023 report and recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on the Governance of Public Universities in North Carolina, which the two of them co-chaired.

Highlights:

  • None of the three leaders voluntarily left their positions here and Ross and Spellings would have liked to stay longer. Their premature departures are evidence of turmoil and leadership “churn” that are hurting UNC and the entire system.
  • There is a perception nationally that “our university is more political than others – and getting more political,” Ross said. He said it’s “not healthy,” for the Board of Governors and boards of trustees to be dominated by one party, as they are today. In the past, he said, the boards set aside partisan politics.
  • Spellings said the UNC system faces two key questions: “Are we organized for success?” And, does our governance structure “reflect the diversity of North Carolina” – gender, racial, ethnic and political diversity?

Center of Higher Education Governance

Ross and Spellings emphasized their commission’s first recommendation: that the UNC Board of Governors “create a new Center of Higher Education Governance to optimize the use of good governance principles in higher education throughout America and to assist the Board of Governors (BOG) and Boards of Trustees (BOTs) in enhancing existing governance practices in North Carolina.”

North Carolina could be a national leader here. No other state has such a center, the panelists said.

Spellings suggested, if the Board of Governors doesn’t establish such a center, it could be created through independent, philanthropic action. We know Duke’s Kenan Center for Ethics has a project, headed by Professor Eric Mlyn on Democracy and Higher Education.  Perhaps this could be a jumping off point for a public/private partnership on this issue? 

The Center would focus on continuously monitoring and improving UNC’s governance system. It would provide training and continuing high-quality education for board members, including a clear understanding of their proper roles and responsibilities.

Ross said the center also could provide a database of qualified, committed people to serve on the Board of Governors and individual campuses’ boards of trustees.

Today’s Governance Problems

Ross said there is “increasing confusion between the Board of Governors and boards of trustees” over their roles and responsibilities. The commission recommended clarifying those.

No other state has as much legislative involvement in appointing university boards, they noted. That results in more political interference. Every other state provides for governors to appoint at least some board members.

Spellings said the commission was concerned by the increasing number of lobbyists on governing boards, because lobbyists have “a vested interest in the good will of the legislature.”

The commission recommended restoring gubernatorial appointments, expanding the sizes of boards, extending board members’ terms and increasing the transparency of board operations.

Both Ross and Spellings emphasized that boards of trustees shouldn’t be “micromanaging” university operations.

Ross said, “I heard more times than I can count that the university should be run like a business. If we look at business, I serve on a publicly traded company board as chair of their nomination and governance committee, and I assure you that it doesn’t happen that we’re telling the CEO who they can hire, and we’re not running the day-to-day business. That’s not our responsibility.”

How the University is Harmed

All three panelists expressed concern about the harm that governance problems are causing the university, making it harder to recruit and retain faculty and administration.

Thorp said turnover at the top – exemplified by the departure of all three of them – creates “chaos” and sacrifices stability and experience.

Spellings said political “shenanigans” keep UNC in the news and that “has implications nationally.” It “chills the talent pool.”

Leading a university “is a tough job on a good day,” she said, adding, “It is distressing when these jobs become a revolving door of talent. This constant chaos does not bode well for the University or for North Carolina.”

Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts

The three panelists each said they have talked with Roberts, offered him their support and are hopeful he will succeed.

Thorp recognized that in today’s world more university leaders may come from outside academia, as does Roberts. That is not necessarily bad, Thorp said, noting that Terry Sanford, former governor of North Carolina, was successful at Duke University.

Ross added that he himself did not come up through academia.

Roberts’ challenge, Spellings said, will be to “keep the meddling and micro-managing at bay.”

Ross said that the risk for leaders like Roberts is, “Will they be allowed to run the institution?”

The Prospect for Change

Ross and Spellings acknowledged that the current General Assembly, with a Republican super-majority, is unlikely to readily adopt the recommendations of a commission established by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper – even though the commission was bipartisan, and Ross is a Democrat and Spellings, a Republican.

“We’re not naïve,” Ross said.

But they praised Governor Cooper for the initiative. They expressed hope that the commission’s work will shape the future of the UNC system.

“We’re playing a long game here,” Spellings said. “Politics is fluid.”

Other Issues

During the Q&A session, the panel also discussed:

  • Handling controversial political issues on campus, including free speech and the need for students and faculty to stay safe.
  • How to keep students’ needs and interests at the forefront.
  • Faculty compensation.
  • Athletics issues. “There’s no solving this,” Spellings quipped.

.

You can read the report of the Governor’s commission here.

Our Coalition’s Thoughts

One Coalition member put it simply afterward: “I was moved.”

We were impressed and heartened that three former UNC leaders, all of whom were forced to leave early under difficult circumstances, still love the University and North Carolina enough to join the webinar discussion, serve on the Governor’s Commission and keep working for positive change.

We are deeply and sincerely thankful to Ross, Spellings and Thorp for participating and for being open and candid in their discussions. We are grateful for the years of extraordinary service and leadership they all gave to the UNC System and to Carolina.

We were encouraged by the hundreds of people who registered and watched the webinar. They submitted many good questions, far more than could be addressed in an hour and a half.

Above all, we are hopeful for the future.

We have no illusions. Higher education – in North Carolina and across the nation – faces rough seas and harsh headwinds today.

Yet, from the founding of the nation’s first public university here in 1789 throughout our proud history, Carolina has weathered many storms.

If we all join together and work together, we can emerge on the other side of this storm better, stronger and even greater than before.

Tom Ross was president of the UNC System from 2011 to 2016.

Margaret Spelling was system president from 2016 to 2019.

Holden Thorp was chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill from 2008 to 2012.

Welcome to the Hot Seat, Lee Roberts!

Image source: https://www.unc.edu/posts/2023/12/15/former-state-budget-director-named-interim-chancellor/

The Coalition for Carolina is hopeful about Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts.

He seems to bring an open mind to the challenge. We bring an open mind to his appointment.

We’re encouraged that he has pledged to work “in a nonpartisan way.”

We’re heartened that when asked “who his boss is, within a complicated governance system,” he replied, “I don’t think there’s any ambiguity about the governance situation. The chancellor reports to the system president.”

We took note that – when asked how he would work with the UNC Board of Trustees, some of whom we believe have improperly interfered with university operations – Roberts said only that he wants their “input.”

Last week, before President Peter Hans appointed Roberts, we posted an online petition, “Stop the Political Meddling That Chased Away Chancellor Guskiewicz.”

Our petition urged President Hans to:

  • “Appoint an interim Chancellor who will maintain stability, earn the trust of the campus community and resist improper overreach by trustees.”
  • “Appoint a diverse and broadly representative search committee that will identify a great Chancellor who will lead Carolina for years to come.”

When he appointed Roberts, President Hans said, “He knows how to find common ground on challenging issues.” He added, “Lee Roberts is a patient leader, a generous listener, and someone raised with the values of public service.”

The news release said, “A full, nationwide search for the chancellor’s role will be launched in the coming months, with active participation from faculty, staff, students, alumni and the broader community.”

Like others in the University community, we have some concerns that Roberts does not have an extensive academic background.

We know, too, that Erskine Bowles didn’t have an academic background before serving as a superb President of the UNC System from 2005 to 2011. Tom Ross didn’t have an academic background before serving with distinction as president of Davidson College and then the UNC System. Bill McCoy was an excellent interim and acting chancellor in 1999 and 2000, despite having no academic background.

As for Roberts’ Duke University ties, we note that the President who took Duke to national prominence was a two-degree (undergrad and law) Carolina product, former Governor and Senator Terry Sanford.

Our greatest concern is the threat of continued political meddling and improper interference by some of the trustees – especially John Preyer, Marty Kotis and Dave Boliek.

Their actions led directly to Kevin Guskiewicz leaving Carolina for Michigan State.

Asked about the governance situation in an interview with Kyle Villemain of The Assembly, Roberts said he reports to the President and wants trustees’ “input.” You can read the interview here.

In another interview, with Korie Dean of The News & Observer, Roberts said he wants to “do no harm” to UNC as interim chancellor.

Adding that he plans to work “in a nonpartisan way,” he told Dean, “I think to be effective in this role, you need to be able to work with Republicans and Democrats and independents and everybody else. And I think that’s what I’ve done in my past roles.”

Those are encouraging words.

If his actions reflect his statements, he will have our support.

If we feel he falls short, we will let him – and you – know.

Sign Our Petition: Stop the Political Meddling That Chased Away Chancellor Guskiewicz

To President Peter Hans and the UNC System Board of Governors:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faces a crisis. On December 8, 2023, we lost yet another Chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz – because of political meddling by members of the UNC Board of Trustees.

We petition you to:

  • Stop trustees’ improper interference at Carolina.
  • Ensure that the next Chancellor at Carolina maintains the standard of excellence that we all expect at America’s oldest and greatest state public university.

President Hans, your selection of the next Chancellor will be the most important decision of your presidency.

Members of the Board of Governors, it is time for you to rein in the intrusive overreach by some members of the Board of Trustees.

Make no mistake: Kevin Guskiewicz is leaving Carolina – for Michigan State – because he had enough of political meddling.

Michigan State won. We lost.

Chancellor Guskiewicz put integrity, academic excellence and the good of our campus community ahead of partisan politics.

For that, the current Board of Trustees hounded him out of Chapel Hill.

Now, our campus is thrown into unnecessary turmoil and Carolina’s reputation for excellence, integrity and independence hangs in the balance.

All because of political interference and governance overreach by trustees.

We urge the Board of Governors to:

  • Determine which members of the UNC Board of Trustees have overstepped their proper statutory and ethical responsibilities.
  • Review the division of authority between the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees.

We urge President Hans to:

  • Appoint an interim Chancellor who will maintain stability, earn the trust of the campus community and resist improper overreach by trustees.
  • Appoint a diverse and broadly representative search committee that will identify a great Chancellor who will lead Carolina for years to come.

When William Richardson Davie laid the cornerstone for Old East in 1793, the University of North Carolina became a beacon of public higher education in America. We must keep it shining bright.

History is watching. 

Sign the petition here.

I understand why Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz is leaving UNC

Image source: Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill – https://www.unc.edu/discover/reflections-from-mimi-chapman/

Over the last four weeks, the University of North Carolina community has been on edge. After reporting surfaced that Chancellor Guskiewicz was the remaining finalist for the Presidency of Michigan State University and his acknowledgement that he was considering the option, all of us at Carolina have been waiting – for his decision and for what comes next.

Many in our community have asked him to stay. Alums, faculty, staff, and students have written both public and private messages hoping that he will keep his finger in the dike here at UNC. Although I offered my support, my message was not that he should stay or go. Rather, it was that he should go with his gut, be a chancellor or president where he can do some good.

The last four years have been brutal. As the former chair of the faculty, I’ve had a front-row seat for much of it, likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Consider his first faculty meeting following his permanent naming to the position. He had to describe, if not defend, a ridiculous settlement with the Sons of the Confederate Veterans to keep a contested Civil War statue permanently off our campus. It was an arrangement no thinking person would willingly be party to, and it of course was foisted upon this campus from forces far beyond it. 

Soon after came the pandemic. Our campus had to beg the UNC System and by extension the legislature to reduce our dormitory census to an amount higher than what our health department recommended. And then beg again to close the campus to stop an infection rate that threatened to overrun our campus health services or worse. The Chancellor and Provost had to do the negotiating, while others of us spoke publicly about the lack of thought and science behind such decisions.

Then came the tenure battle of Nikole Hannah Jones and the threatened firing of the Chancellor for supporting her and the faculty. Although he said nothing publicly against the actions that led to that showdown, behind the scenes he was negotiating to get her a vote. He made the audacious move to talk to angry students that day. 

Enough already.  Most people would find a golden parachute and be out the door. Kevin wanted to stay, to see if he could protect this place. 

Fast forward to February 2023 when he was lambasted by the BOT and directed to “accelerate the development of a School of Civic Life and Leadership.” In keeping with an ongoing bent toward revisionist history, the current board chair recently opined that both the Chancellor and the Provost were authors of a memo that proposed what is now known as SCILL, again asserting that somehow this is a benign effort, something that’s been in progress over years. The questions, debate and, indeed, anger over such a center – which was never described as a School before February – indeed began years ago. But planning by the faculty? No sir. 

Who wants to lead in such a situation? Imagine what it must feel like to prepare for two days per month with your board, the entity with which you are supposed to hold the institution in trust. Yet you might as well be walking into a viper pit, full of people who hiss one thing to your face and another behind closed doors. This one’s jockeying for political office. This one wants to get rid of tenured faculty. That one is a champion of civility, except to those who tell him things he doesn’t want to hear. Yet another is all about free speech for everyone except you. You, Chancellor, are not to speak unless we okay it. In fact, don’t make an announcement to reduce tuition for lower income families or lament a U.S. Supreme Court ruling the institution fought for nine years. 

One wonders why these people want to be involved in the university at all. Except for the basketball games and the glitzy fundraising events, they seem to hate everything about the place.  

Not long ago, I had occasion to meet the former president of New College in Florida.  She held the post for 19 months before she was fired by a hostile and politically motivated board.  We talked briefly about what her life had been like since. She said it had been a hard experience, and she has taken time away to think about her next move. But she talked about what she valued, how much she loved the students she’d taught over her career, how she treasured her colleagues who have remained at New College, trying to make a go of it in a changed landscape. She also said that the amount of pressure she was dealing with was not worth it. She told me she did not want to die from doing the job. It’s a stark statement, but I don’t think she’s wrong.

Choosing to serve in a public institution, in whatever capacity, is a gift to the larger world. It is a statement that says everyone deserves to have access to a college education, that the world needs research and scholarship that is done for the public good, not to enrich a corporation or stockholders. Kevin has made that choice throughout his career, and it is significant that he is going to another state school, a school where first-generation students can find a high quality and affordable education, one that will change their lives and the lives of their children. 

For his sake, I hope the board there understands, in a way that ours clearly does not, that they are getting a strong and capable person, someone who has lived public education through his whole career. I pray they let him lead with his heart and his intellect, let him choose his own team, support him as he joins with faculty and student leaders. If they do their campus will heal from the difficulties it has faced and be stronger. 

I’ll be rooting for the Spartans and rooting for Kevin as he takes this next step.   

We’re Mad as Hell … and We’re Raising Hell

Yes, we’re angry about what is happening to Carolina, and we’re going to keep raising hell about it.

In fact, we’re going to turn up the heat. Because the partisan political attacks on UNC are getting worse.

Politicians in Raleigh Must Stop meddling at Carolina and hurting this great University.

Not only do we fear a bitter blow: the possible loss of Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, who has been a steady hand at the helm through stormy seas.

But, in just the last few months:

When we posted lengthy clips from Mac Donald’s presentation to the trustees and her speech to the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, some of our critics accused us of “cancel culture.”

To the contrary, we welcome Mac Donald. We’re glad she came and spoke. We want people to see the extremism of the politically and ideologically driven attacks on Carolina and colleges and universities across the nation.

Follow this link to access both of her presentations.

If you’re as angry as we are, join us. Help us combat these attacks.

    We can educate. We can speak up. And, ultimately, we can vote.

Educate:

Every week, the Coalition for Carolina sends out information on what’s happening. Follow us – and share the information with your family, your friends and all friends of Carolina.

Speak up:

Email trustees and legislators. Even better, call them. And even better, talk to them face to face.

Believe us, when they hear from you, they listen.

Vote:

Before you vote next year, educate yourself on where the candidates stand on issues affecting Carolina.

Our Coalition is non-partisan and non-political. We can’t and don’t endorse candidates.

We can tell you where the candidates stand – and what they’ve done.

And we will.

You can help us do this work – and you can stand up for Carolina – by making a financial donation to the Coalition for Carolina.

As you think of your end-of-year contributions to good causes, keep us in mind.

Donate on our website. Or, reach us at contact@coalitionforcarolina.org to get directions on where to send a check.  

Let’s turn anger into action.

Gratitude

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: