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.

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.”

Could This Happen in North Carolina?

The Coalition was founded last summer to support and defend the University and its independence from partisan interference. We rededicated ourselves to the University’s promise of Lux Libertas—light and liberty—and the principles of open inquiry, free speech, academic freedom, equity and inclusion because we saw these principles at risk.

Over the past months we’ve stayed on mission and pointed out specific examples of how our concerns were playing out in hopes of slowing or stopping the damage.   We’re making an impact and recently, thankfully, things seem to have quieted down. 

While “quiet” is good, it may mean “not making headlines.”  Whatever is happening,  we are hopeful and will remain vigilant–not just to what’s happening in NC, but also to what’s going on in other states. To that end, a news report’s description of Governor Ron DeSantis’ Planned Sweeping Assault on Autonomy of Public Colleges in Florida caught our attentionas it paints an alarming picture:

A sweeping action to consolidate and centralize governance.

“Records obtained through a series of public-records requests show that DeSantis’ office recently developed a sweeping plan to overhaul higher-education oversight in Florida. The governor’s proposal would have centralized more power in boards run by the governor’s political appointees, made colleges and universities more dependent on money controlled by politicians in Tallahassee, and imposed more restrictions on what schools can teach….”The DeSantis plan would have even stripped university presidents of the ability to hire professors.”

Attacks on tenure, free speech, accreditation, the curriculum.

“They have passed laws ordering community colleges and state universities to dig up details about the personal political beliefs of their employees, making it harder for professors to maintain tenure, interfering with university accreditation, and threatening funding for schools that don’t fall in line with the governor’s efforts to control the teaching of slavery, segregation and institutional racism…”

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An expressed belief by leaders that the Florida public universities are too liberal.

“Over the past year, Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies in the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature have been on a crusade against public universities, tarring them as “intellectually repressive” and “socialism factories.”

As we consider what’s going on in Florida as well as other states such as South Dakota, the Coalition’s mission to preserve and protect UNC Chapel Hill from political interference becomes more vital than ever.    

Why is this Happening?

What a week!  We are proud to welcome the class of 2022 to their new status as UNC-CH alumni. Last week was filled with celebrations.  Frank Bruni and Chancellor Guskiewicz gave excellent remarks at the commencement ceremony and, coming off the heels of our fantastic men’s and women’s basketball season, things felt pretty good. 

Yet, as our great University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill successfully launched the class of 2022, ugly headlines related to university governance once again appeared. A damning report from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was followed by a downgrading of the journalism school accreditation from The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).  This rollercoaster of good times followed by bad news is frustrating and as we work our way through a series of emotions, many ask; why?  With respect to our governing bodies being so often at the center of the controversies, we asked former Chancellor Thorp for his opinion on what has changed.  It turns out that our governing bodies are not following what is known as good governance practices of “noses in and fingers out”.  Check out Chancellor Thorp’s opinion in the video below.

I would say, based on what I’ve observed, that the legislative bodies are much more involved in areas of university operation that they’ve never been involved in before. Particularly the hiring of administrators and the deciding on tenure and also on the curriculum.  This has never really been the case it’s always been true that the administration was responsible for hiring other administrators and the faculty were responsible for deciding on tenure and on the curriculum.  So, what you have now is kind of an incursion of the governing boards into areas that are not within the responsibility of the governing boards.  

There always has been incursion of various kinds from the UNC system and the governing boards.  During my time that was mostly in athletics.  And, you can see there that all of that interference really didn’t help matters very much and it’s not helping matters very much now to have the governing boards working on parts of university operations that are not in their remit.

Links to Recent News:

Webinar Recording: How and Why Tenure Strengthens Carolina

If you missed our “How and Why Tenure Strengthens Carolina” webinar on April 27, 2022, you missed a great discussion.  Like business career paths, tenure is a 10-to-15-year highly competitive process designed to prepare talented and committed scholars for coveted leadership positions. 

Tenure plays a critical role in preserving academic freedom and protecting free speech.  Webinar moderator and UNC Faculty Chair Dr. Mimi Chapman shared examples of how tenure has been threatened around the country.  Several audacious actions are underway around the country to proactively eliminate tenure; replace tenured professors with those without tenure’s protection; or simply reduce the number of tenure- track professors.  If these efforts are successful, there would be a serious erosion of both academic freedom and free speech rights. Additionally, such a move could be yet another dangerous step in governance overreach. Dr. Lloyd Kramer shared an ominous historical fact during the webinar: “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.” Tenure prevents such acts of retaliation and retribution.  

Check out the webinar recording for more…