Members of the UNC Board of Trustees, especially the board chair, should first and foremost be advocates and champions for the University.
But John Preyer, who expects to be elected soon as the next chair, has in recent weeks attacked the faculty and administration.
First, Preyer has said he does not believe the University’s faculty council represents the true views of the faculty.
Second, at the July 27 board meeting, he questioned and chastised the Chancellor for saying that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Students for Fair Admissions affirmative-action case was “not the outcome we would have hoped for.”
“Why did we do that?'” Preyer asked. “‘Was that the right thing to do … trying to litigate a position that was found to be in violation of the law?'”
Let’s take each issue in turn.
Why doesn’t Preyer respect the voting process and representative democracy?
Every year, the Office of Faculty governance staff looks at the faculty census and apportions the number of slots for the 93-member faculty council based on the number of faculty members in each school; for example, the School of Medicine has more representatives than the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
All voting faculty are asked in a survey how they want to participate in faculty governance.
A committee of current committee chairs and at-large members nominates individuals to different committees and to faculty council – always with an eye to three things:
- people who are willing to do the needed work,
- faculty members who have expressed interest in a committee’s subject matter
- a mix of people, some with experience in faculty governance and some who are new to it.
Two people are nominated for each open position, and a faculty-wide election is held.
That’s pretty democratic and representative, if you ask us.
You might argue that not everyone participates, thus weakening the process. That’s true. But that is equally true in any election.
Why doesn’t Preyer respect this democratic process?
Affirmative Action (Students for Fair Admissions Case)
The campus fought the lawsuit for nine years because we believed it was mission-critical. The lower courts all ruled in favor of our admissions procedures. The first pillar of our strategic plan speaks to the need for a diverse and welcoming campus.
So, no, the court’s decision clearly was “not the outcome we would have hoped for”!
What outcome did Preyer hope for? Did he hope for our campus admissions team, the office of university counsel, and everyone else who worked so hard on this case to lose? Doesn’t he respect their dedication and hard work?
North Carolina has citizens of all creeds, colors, genders, and places of national origin. Serving the state means finding a way to include people from every swath of North Carolina on our campus. That is a worthy mission, one we should continue to fight for, in accordance with the law.
UNC-Chapel Hill was right to fight the case, and we are right to be disappointed that we lost.
A Time for Respect
The Board of Trustees’ bylaws say the board, “shall promote the sound development of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill within the functions prescribed for it, helping it to serve the people of the State in a way that will complement the activities of the other institutions and aiding it to perform at a high level of excellence in every area of endeavor.”
Will the man who might be chair respect that charge? Or will he use his position to continue the partisan politics attacks that in recent years have put Carolina’s reputation for excellence at risk?
Unlike the Southern segregationists who defied the U.S. Supreme Court’s school-desegregation decision in the 1950s, we will respect the Supreme Court’s affirmative-action decision.
We don’t agree with it, we don’t think it’s right, and we’ll work to change the court and the decision. But we’ll comply with it.
Preyer should respect the elected representatives of the faculty. He should respect the administration and staff. He should respect the University for standing up for diversity, equality and inclusion.