The NC legislature is in the process of passing legislation that will force NC colleges to change accreditors every cycle placing a heavy burden on NC universities and community colleges. The change could also harm students and the reputation of all NC higher education institutions.
There have been attempts to justify such an egregious and unnecessary change and even suggestions that the current accreditor somehow invited such action or deserves it. Any such suggestion is not true. SACSCOC simply did their job and followed normal process by sending a letter to Carolina asking for more details about the process trustees used to propose the new School of Civic Life and Leadership. Following that inquiry, several right-wing NC politicians sent a somewhat threatening letter to the accreditor and then Senate Bill 680 (copy and paste this link to see the bill as the legislature often blocks referrals from our website https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2023/S680) was proposed and has passed the NC senate. The Coalition recently held a webinar to alert the public about the potential dangers of this proposed legislation to change accreditors. What follows are video clips and accompanying text from that webinar.
Ms. Sallie Shuping Russell was a former member of the SACSCOC board shares how accreditors actually work with colleges. She also touches on actions leading up to the recent legislation.
Dr. Holden Thorp, former UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor shares his thoughts on why it is important for politicians to avoid meddling in the accreditation process and why politicians might want to do so.
Dr. Jerry Lucido Founder of the USC Center for Enrollment, Research and Policy and Practice explains how an accrediting change can hurt Carolina and other colleges.
Dr Roslyn Artis, President of Benedict College and SACSCOC board member, explains what the benefits are of working with the same accreditor.
By many measures, forcing an expensive, cumbersome, unnecessary accreditor change on UNC System and NC Community colleges is dangerous and terrible idea, that you can impact. Dr. Mimi Chapman provides her thoughts to webinar attendees any you on what you can do to try and stop this madness.
Huge congratulations to Coalition for Carolina advisor Paul Fulton!
Paul, former dean of the Kenan Flagler business school and NC business executive, is a tireless advocate for North Carolina public education. He was recently honored by theNorth Carolina Society of New York at its annual Dinner Dance.
Since 1947, the Society has recognized 79 honorees, including John Motley Morehead III, John M. Belk, Dean E. Smith, Richard Hampton Jenrette, Julian and Josie Robertson, Gov. James Baxter Hunt, Jr., Dr. James and Ann Goodnight, and Thomas W. Ross.
point out how public higher education is facing funding challenges across the country and proposes a novel solution that would enable us to invest in our young people’s education, address current funding challenges, and realize a favorable return on the investment.
From the article:
“In years past, public-college tuition was kept very low by state investment in public universities. But today, levels of investment have in many cases dropped from about half of a university’s budget to less than 10 percent. In some states, these aggregate reductions have been mitigated by the creation of state programs funding individual tuition support for residents, as in South Carolina and Louisiana, yet it’s still clear that states will no longer be the primary source of public-university support.
Financing an equitable higher education can be done: The U.S. has near-universal water supplies, transportation, and electricity for even its poorest residents. What would happen if we applied the same principles to the public goods that universities provide?
This could be done with the financial support of state-supported bond programs — or less preferably through the private capital markets (after all, student debt is a $1.5-trillion market), like most conventional forms of infrastructure. Upon graduation, a graduate would be asked to pay a small percentage of income back to the university for the duration of the graduate’s career — let’s say 3 percent to 5 percent. The graduates who become millionaires will financially outweigh those who drop out of the labor market. This mechanism should ensure that the monthly costs aren’t too burdensome.
The economic fundamentals of “investing” in our young people in this way are solid.”
The Winston-Salem Journal has published an opinion piece in support of Governor Cooper’s commission on university governance. They view the new commission as “a necessary first step to protect taxpayers’ investment in our university system and to right a ship that has listed starboard. We’ll watch for their recommendations with interest — and with hope that the legislature will be persuaded to take their recommendations seriously.”
In supporting the commission, the Journal highlights some of the problems that have arisen as a result of one political party having “a lock on the UNC System”. They cite incidences where lawmakers used their power “at times to turn students into political pawns, as in the era of the HB2 ‘bathroom bill,’ when they tried to impose harmful limitations on where some UNC students could relieve themselves. Questions have also arisen over Republican-appointed board members who have improperly tried to influence university hiring and contract decisions, as well as, in one case, a student election. A couple of board members sought university chancellorships for themselves.”
The piece includes quotes from Governor Cooper and co-chair Margaret Spellings.
On September 26, 2022 The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article under the heading of “academic freedom” that details the actions the University of Idaho has taken to silence educators when it comes to the issue of abortion. The article was written by Senior Reporter Nell Gluckman and is entitled; “’It’s Making Us Accomplices’: A University Tells Faculty to ‘Remain Neutral’ on Abortion Discussions in Class.”
The university references Idaho’s law and asks educators to “remain neutral” when it comes to conversations about abortion. The university also addresses the subject of contraception acknowledging that “the Idaho law was ‘not a model of clarity’ … with regards to contraception.” As a result, the university’s general council’s advice– with respect to contraception–was “to be conservative, …, the university should not provide birth control.”
Several affected faculty members expressed fear that their “viewpoint expression” could result in them committing a felony and see the new guidance as deeply troubling, a “breaching of the divide between religion and state,” and an infringement on academic freedom. Follow this link to read the entire article.
Preserving academic freedom and freedom of speech in our public universities is absolutely essential for a well-functioning democracy and actions like those taken by the University of Idaho raise alarm bells. In an earlier conversation with Carolina professor Dr. William Sturkey, we asked him to describe how freedom of speech differs from academic freedom. As you can read and hear from his description, actions like those taken by the University of Idaho may infringe on both.
How does freedom of speech differ from academic freedom and why would someone self-censor?
Freedom of speech, most importantly, in our country applies to the freedom of the press [and], freedom of assembly. These laws were enacted to make sure that tyrannical governments couldn’t tamp down [on] the press and political movements….It’s about the state suppressing freedom of speech. It’s about the state banning books. It’s about the state banning concepts or trying to ban ideas by using state power through the legislature. That’s what freedom of speech is really about.Now it can be expanded and there’s, you know, liberal ways that you can sort of play with that…. like I have free speech now because I’m speaking…. There’s a huge spectrum of what that might mean. But it really means when the state steps in to interfere with people’s exchange of ideas.Academic freedom, to me, is the ability to study and discuss what you want…. It’s [the] ability to draw conclusions on… their own merit, you know, using your own independent research, [and] not having, …, an administration or even a state government tell you what to research and ultimately what to find. That’s what freedom of speech and that’s what academic freedom mean…. It’s also crucial to understand, I think, that freedom of speech also allows for people to respond to your speech.…. [T]he term “safe spaces” is often thrown out, but also one of the things with this term “self-censorship” is that it almost seems like you don’t want people to have the freedom to respond to folks who are making points, the people…self-censor because they’re afraid of what other people have to say. And, you know, I think that we should all share our views provided that we’re convicted in those views, but everyone else has a right to respond to you as well.
Another Chronicle of Higher Education article written by Jonathan Marks and entitled “Red Scare” explores the origins and stated mission versus actions of youth conservative group Turning Point USA. In the piece Marks explores activism on college campuses, addresses the question of liberal versus conservative representation, and concludes that the activism of groups like Turning Point USA “bears an uncomfortable resemblance to McCarthyism.” Rightwing activists often accuse colleges of trying to “indoctrinate” students to become more liberal. What seems clear from this piece is that the colleges are not the ones doing the indoctrinating. As with similar finger pointing, the accusation of indoctrination appears to be more projection than reality. Follow this link to check out this very interesting piece.
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!
During ourfaculty tenure webinar Dr. Lloyd Kramer spoke about the common good as it relates to faculty and tenure. In making his point, he shared a warning and valuable historical insight into free speech and what happens when faculty is punished for speech. Below are his comments:
“One other point about the common good…and I’ll be historical about this. One of the most common characteristics of authoritarian societies is that when teachers, or faculty, go against some reigning ideological or political position they are dismissed they are removed–as we saw with the case of Professor Hedrick at UNC in 1856. He didn’t go along with slavery and he was fired…. Just as we don’t fire judges every year or say judges shouldn’t stay in their position, we assume that democracy–the functioning of our system—requires continuity and people who are in a long-term position. And, I’m not saying that tenured faculty are like judges, but they are in some sense in that they shouldn’t be vulnerable to every passing wind or current of political pressure economic downturn. So, the common good for the university as a whole and for the society [is a need to have]… independent creative people who are securely positioned. Both of these elements of the common good are served by a tenure system that also helps individuals have more stable lives and careers.”
On July 27, 2022 the Trustees passed two resolutions related to speech. (Follow this link for a news story about the meeting and resolutions.) One of the resolutions affirmed what is known as the “Chicago Principles” outlined in the “Kalven report.” The Kalven report was created in 1967 at the University of Chicago when students were pressing the institution to take a stand on the Vietnam War. The Kalven Report states in part that a university
“is a community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives. It cannot insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy; if it takes collective action, therefore, it does so at the price of censuring any minority who do not agree with the view adopted. In brief, it is a community which cannot resort to majority vote to reach positions on public issues. The neutrality of the university as an institution arises then not from a lack of courage nor out of indifference and insensitivity. It arises out of respect for free inquiry and the obligation to cherish a diversity of viewpoints. And this neutrality as an institution has its complement in the fullest freedom for its faculty and students as individuals to participate in political action and social protest…the instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.”
The neutrality described in the Kalven report complements and reinforces the full freedom for faculty and students, as individuals, to participate in political action and social protest. The report makes clear that “the instrument of dissent and criticism” is not the university, but the individual faculty member or the individual student, but also makes clear that the university is the “home and sponsor of critics”. This is certainly reasonable and should not be threatening or limiting to individual free speech, academic freedom, or the free expression of faculty and students at UNC Chapel Hill.
Here at the Coalition for Carolina we strongly affirm the democratic and academic value of free speech and are happy to report on an encouraging development from the UNC-CH Board of Trustees.
“Benefits of public institutions of higher education. The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.” (Article IX, Section 9 of the NC Constitution)
North Carolinians have the RIGHT to an affordable higher education mandated by our state’s constitution. According to a report by LendEDU, over the past twenty years, the cost of college in the US has doubled and in some cases tripled. The largest increase has been for those attending private schools or those who are out of state enrollees at public schools. This rapid increase in cost has far outstripped inflation which has recently been reported at a 40-year high.
While the cost of college student debt has soared, so far, the state of North Carolina has weathered the storm and in 2020 ranked “19th in terms of lowest average debt per student with a figure of $26,866 — an increase of nearly 3% from the previous year.” About 57% of the NC’s 2019 college graduates reported having student debt. For that same year, Carolina reported average student loan debt of $22,466, and only 40% of our graduates with student loans.
How does Carolina do it? The constitutional mandate has been upheld by visionary leaders like former UNC System President William C. “Bill” Friday who “famously called the University a “mighty engine,” driving opportunity, prosperity, invention, and innovation across the state. Affordability is the fuel that gives this engine its horsepower, ensuring that all North Carolinians have the means to take advantage of the many higher education options across the state.” Friday’s work was followed by President C.D. Spangler who worried that increasing tuition could result in “…an elitist university — an elitism of net worth, not brains.” Later, former President Erskine Bowles would promise to keep tuition in the wake of planned tuition increases from the then Board of Governors.
The efforts continue through the hard work of Carolina administrators, faculty, staff and alumni who’ve developed several laudable programs to lessen the cost of college to families. A few examples:
Carolina Covenant: In 2003 and 2004 then Vice Provost and director of student aid Shirley Ort and Chancellor James Moeser launched Carolina Covenant to provide support to low-income students from households up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level so they could graduate free of debt. These students comprise about 13% of each entering class.
The Red White and Blue Challenge: Carolina alumni Steve and Debbie Vetter of Greensboro committed $20 million for need-based aid to support students from military families—many of whom are first generation college enrollees. The goal is to double the total to $40 million.
Blue Sky Scholars: Former UNC System president Erskine Bowles helped launch this program to support “middle-income students who make up the majority of North Carolinians receiving need-based aid at Carolina.”
These are exceptional efforts that deliver on the constitutional promise. The vision, unity, collaboration and generosity that keeps Carolina affordable IS the promise of Lux Libertas. We can maintain a high performing, affordable, accessible Carolina for all. This is the spirit that the Coalition for Carolina seeks to preserve and protect. Join us.
Today the American Association of University Professors came out with their annual report on faculty salaries showing that wages for professors increased 2% “consistent with the flat wage growth observed since the Great Recession of the late 2000’s.” Despite the first raise in several years occurring this year in the UNC system, salaries at UNC Chapel Hill remain behind our peers particularly for women and people of color. Combined with so much scandal and unrest, our faculty is highly vulnerable to poaching from better funded universities – often private, but not exclusively so – that can pay them better and perhaps provide a less politicized working environment.
Last week, someone asked a faculty member what they were doing this summer, “since you’re not teaching.” Faculty are asked versions of this question all the time, whether it’s summer or not. The implication is that if they’re not in the classroom, they’re gardening, playing golf, or on a multi-month vacation. But a faculty member’s job both at research and teaching-focused institutions extends far beyond the classroom and is a year-round endeavor.
Faculty come to an institution like UNC Chapel Hill because it is a research institution, a place that will support scholarship and allow them to contribute to solving current problems and to understanding both the past and the present. The faculty’s research mission is two-fold. First, to create knowledge through data collection, archival research, field studies, the use of artificial intelligence; work that happens at the bench and at the bedside, in the library and in the community. And next to disseminate the resulting knowledge through every imaginable channel – white papers on a website, peer-reviewed journal articles, interviews, and conferences, lay publications and twitter threads. That dissemination is critical, because that is how the knowledge created here gets put to use by the larger society. Much of that concentrated research work and dissemination happens after the typical 8 to 6 day and over “holidays” when the demands of the classroom are not as pressing.
In addition to the classroom teaching most associated with faculty life, faculty members also spend copious hours with graduate students as they are becoming researchers in their own right. Chairing, editing, or otherwise overseeing their thesis or dissertation committees, writing letters of recommendation, helping graduate students prepare for presentations and job talks, supervising them in the classroom or in professional internships among other mentoring responsibilities also accounts for large chunks of faculty time.
Faculty are regularly engaged in running the institution through hiring and awards committees, through curriculum revisions and updates, promotion, and tenure committees, just to name a few. For their disciplines and professions, they are editing journals, reviewing papers and grants for foundations and federal agencies. The number of hats most academics wear is astounding, and there is so much we’ve left out. No doubt being a faculty member is a privilege, just as being a CEO, a small business owner, or a partner in a law firm is a privileged position. But that does not make those roles easy or cushy as some may believe. Here at the Coalition for Carolina we want the public to have a better understanding of academic life to fully appreciate what UNC Chapel Hill does for our state. Understanding faculty life is one part of that. Send your questions and comments and we’ll attempt to address them.
Submitted by: Dr. Mimi Chapman – Chair, UNC Chapel Hill Faculty
Click the link below to access the full AAUP Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2021-22
There was a famous case in 1900 at Stanford where a sociologist named Edward Ross was fired at the request of the main trustee Jane Stanford, the wife of the founder of the university, after Ross made public comments opposing Chinese immigration and favoring public ownership of utilities. Both of these ideas were deemed to be socialists at the time because they were positions by held by labor unions. The president of the university fired Ross. He lost his job.
The second famous case James Cattell and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana were both fired at Columbia University
in 1917 for writing and speaking against US involvement and policies in World War I.
These are examples that aroused enormous outcry among faculty because people were speaking in the public square and they were losing their job within the university.
I want to give one other example and it has to do with UNC Chapel Hill and it’s especially relevant, I think, because we know the history of our own university. This is an account of what happened in 1856 during the lead-up to the US presidential election.
An attack was made in the local press on an unidentified professor whose name was Benjamin Hedrick. He allegedly supported the anti-slavery candidate John C. Fremont, the Republican, and the Raleigh Standard, the newspaper, said this would lead to a disaster, a separation of the states, and this was the quote;
“Let our schools and seminaries of learning be scrutinized and if black Republicans [i.e., Fremont supporters] are found in them, let them be driven out. That man is neither a fit nor a safe instructor of our young men who even inclines to Fremont and black Republicanism.” In this same newspaper shortly afterwards a letter to the editor appeared from someone calling himself an alumnus of UNC who said; “Can the trustees of our own state university invite pupils to this institution under their charge with the assurance that this mainstream of education contains no deadly poison at its fountain head? We have been reliably informed that a professor at our state university [this man Hedrick] is an open and a valid supporter of Fremont and declares his willingness–nay his desire–to support the black Republican ticket. … Is he a fit or safe instructor for our young men? …[O]ught he not be “required to leave,” at least be dismissed, from a situation where his poisonous influence is so powerful, and his teachings so antagonist to the “honor and safety” of the University in this State? …We must have certain security,… that at State Universities we will have no canker-worm preying at the very vitals of Southern institutions.”
And what happened? The newspaper immediately said this (It’s like Fox News in 1856.):
“We take it for granted that Professor Hedrick will be promptly removed.”
And the next week the faculty disowned him; the parents threatened to withdraw their sons; and alumni joined the public in calling for his dismissal. He refused to resign and… he was terminated within a week, though his salary was paid to the end of the term. The only faculty member to defend him was a French instructor named Henri Herrisse who was also terminated immediately at the same time. Hounded by a mob, Hedrick left his native state.
So, I have shared these historical examples because I want to suggest that tenure came about for two important reasons:
Number one, to protect the security and freedom of people to present whatever they believe to be the truth based on careful evidence in their classrooms and in their research
And secondly, to prevent trustees from arbitrarily firing any member of the faculty who exercises free speech rights outside the university.