That is the question pondered by Inside Higher Ed. The piece begins like this; “The University of North Carolina system is grappling with accusations of partisan overreach by state legislators and their governing board appointees, fueling concerns that the system is headed down a dangerous path.” Inside Higher Ed goes on to describe several concerning governance incidents as it incorporates responses from interviews held with several people. Here are a few comments from those they interviewed:
Regarding the “compelled speech” resolution recently passed by the Board of Governors:
- “Nathan Grove, a chemistry professor at UNC Wilmington and the chair of the campus’s Faculty Senate, said that vote served as a wake-up call for him and his colleagues. They saw it as a sign that the Board of Governors, which was “usually pretty hands-off,” he said, could take “a more heavy-handed approach” on certain issues. Worse, Grove said, the decision was based on a misunderstanding.”
- “Art Pope, a member of the Board of Governors since 2020 and a prolific Republican donor, denied that the compelled speech vote was motivated by politics.”
- “Jane Stancill, the system’s vice president for communications, wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed that the “policy revision” banning compelled speech is ‘content neutral’.”
The Inside Higher Ed piece also reflects on other periods when UNC System governing bodies engaged in overreach. They cite the 2015 “shut down [of] a center on poverty and opportunity at UNC Chapel Hill”(along with other centers), the Nikole Hannah-Jones debacle, former president Tom Ross being pushed out of his job, and more. Paul Fulton was interviewed and here is part of what he said:
“Paul Fulton, a former member of the Board of Governors from 2009 to 2013, said he doesn’t think UNC has quite reached the tipping point, but he is increasingly concerned about the future of what he calls ‘one of our state’s greatest assets.’ ‘We’re a resilient system, and we’re nowhere near the Florida or Texas level [of political influence],” he said. “But we do have a hint of that nowadays. And it is worrisome’.”
The Inside Higher Ed article is comprehensive, excellent, and well worth your time to read in entirety. Follow this link to access the full article.
In addition to being interviewed by Inside Higher Ed this week, Paul Fulton wrote a response to an opinion piece in The Pilot about the proposed new school of “School of Civic Life and Leadership”. The writer incorporated personal projection, misinformation, and mischaracterizations in The Pilot piece. Mr. Fulton sets out to correct the record. Here is some of what he says:
“Comments in the media immediately after the board’s vote made it seem like a done deal.
But the chancellor made it clear the faculty – as always – will build the curriculum.
‘Any proposed degree program or school will be developed and led by our faculty, deans, and provost. Our faculty are the marketplace of ideas and they will build the curriculum and determine who will teach it,’ Guskiewicz said in his campus message.
‘I will be working with our faculty to study the feasibility of such a school and the ways we can most effectively accomplish our goal of promoting democracy in our world today,’ he said.
That work can take years.
There’s a reason faculty shape the curriculum. I spent eight years on the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees. And believe me, they [the faculty] are the experts – you do not want trustees shaping or dictating curriculum.
So yes, UNC-Chapel Hill welcomes robust debate. No, there is no evidence that it’s a center of liberal indoctrination. No, a final decision has not been made on the School of Civic Life and Leadership. And yes, faculty will continue to have a strong role shaping any such school.”