Silence Won’t Save Carolina

To say that UNC Chapel Hill faculty salaries have not kept pace with peers over the past 10 years is quite the understatement.  The accompanying graph paints a picture of not just an an ever-widening pay gap relative to peer schools, but an inflation adjusted pay cut.  This is concerning and unacceptable. The recently announced pay increases will not fix the problem and this pay gap versus peers is not limited to full-time professors at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

How did this happen over 10 years without someone raising the alarm or doing something about it?  The lack of visibility to this data was one factor, but with the negative headlines, governance overreach, and meddling in day-to-day operations, the silence of those who care was also a factor.  

The Coalition for Carolina will do all we can to shed a light on issues like this, but we need your help, your voice, your activism.  Those who love Carolina can reach out to the trustees, members of the Board of Governors, state legislators, and education policy makers to let them know how you feel about the policies and practices that are hurting the university.   As long as there is no pushback, the problems will continue. Silence won’t save Carolina.

Data Source: Chronicle for Higher Education: https://data.chronicle.com
Data Source: Chronicle for Higher Education: https://data.chronicle.com

The state has the resources to address faculty salaries and underfunding of public education in general.  See the related news below:

NC Gov. Cooper proposes more raises for state employees and teachers:

“North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called for Medicaid expansion and more money for state employees and teachers this year in his budget proposal ahead of the legislature’s spring session.

The state passed a two-year budget in 2021, but the General Assembly may pass additional spending bills during its short session, which begins on May 18.

The Republican-controlled legislature is unlikely to model those bills on the Democratic governor’s recommendation, but they will have to negotiate with Cooper to avoid a veto of their priorities.

Cooper presented his proposal to reporters Wednesday afternoon with State Budget Director Charlie Perusse.”

NC Republicans are currently considering state employee and teacher raises, tax cuts this session – Reach out and let them know you are in favor of this funding: 

The first signs of the Republican-majority General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper agreeing on something this year sprang forth on Wednesday: Raises for state employees and teachers.

What isn’t clear yet: how much they might be.

House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters on Wednesday, the first day of the legislative session, that House Republicans want to look at “some increases” for state employees and teachers.

While the state budget is passed every two years, smaller budget bills in between can adjust spending. Republicans are looking at both money for employees and some sort of possible tax relief, Moore said.”

Higher Ed Works calls on state leaders to use a $6.2 billion surplus to “Make education a priority again”.

“RALEIGH (May 18, 2022) – As the NC General Assembly reconvenes today with a $6.2 billion state budget surplus, it’s time to make education a priority again in North Carolina.

Officials announced last week that the state will take in $4.24 billion more than projected in the budget year that ends June 30 – a 15% increase. And they revised revenue projections for the budget year that begins July 1 upward by $1.96 billion, or nearly 7%.1 

Meanwhile, North Carolina ranks 34th among the states in average teacher pay and 41st in K-12 per-pupil expenditures.2 Community college faculty are paid even worse. Turnover among faculty and staff at UNC System campuses has spiked dramatically in the past year.3 

And inflation continues with an 8.5% increase in prices in the past year, devouring the 2.5% raises state workers received last year.4

Former UNC-CH Chancellor Thorp on the Tenure Process

The Nikole Hannah-Jones debacle at Carolina brought faculty tenure into the national spotlight last year. In this short video, former Chancellor Holden Thorp shares his thoughts on the historical role of the board of trustees in tenure decisions.

While the process for how tenure is awarded is important and has received much air time, there is so much more to know about faculty tenure.  

Join us next Wednesday April 27, 2022 at 3:30 pm for discussion about how and why faculty tenure was created and why it strengthens Carolina.

So far, over 200 supporters have consented to have their names listed on our website!

Thank you again for your support of the Coalition for Carolina.

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Follow the link below to do so.

A Welcome Calm at Carolina, but also Evidence of More Political Retribution

The recent success of Carolina’s men’s and women’s basketball teams during March Madness and fewer embarrassing situations involving governance overreach and politicization have provided much needed calm.  We are thankful for this relative calm and hope it continues. But, even in the midst of this calm, we have clear and frequent reminders that we have work to do.  

As the excitement of March Madness took our attention, NC Policy watch published an investigative piece detailing what happened when Professor Eric Muller wasn’t reappointed to the UNC Press board. A member of the UNC Press board says; “We were put in a position where we basically had to accept them [the UNC Board of Governors (BOG)] rejecting the reappointment of our unanimously elected chairman”. The member asked not to be identified because they said they still fear political retribution by members of the conservative-dominated BOG and several Press board members believe that a “culture of intimidation” from the BOG continues to threaten academic freedom across the university system.  

With respect to Professor Muller, here is what the investigative report reveals: 

One member of the press board stated: 

“They never satisfactorily explained the rejection and they refused to publicly debate or vote on the reappointment,” the board member said. “I think everyone on our board knew it was wrong, but we also knew that the harder we fought this, the more damage the Board of Governors could do to the Press. There was a strong chance that other programs and projects we are involved with individually would be targeted in retribution. Eric’s own case proved that and they have shown a willingness to go after people who oppose them time and again for years now.”

Reporter Joe Killian continued:

 “Muller ultimately resigned from the UNC Press Board rather than drag the organization through a grueling public — and possibly legal — fight with the Board of Governors. Policy Watch reached out to Muller for comment for this story. He declined. But UNC Press Board members and academics across the system warned the incident set a worrisome precedent: Conservative political appointees on the system’s governing board could ignore established procedure and assert complete control over groups and processes with which they are meant to share governance with faculty, staff and students.”

Follow this link to read the full investigative report.

Professor Eric Muller has responded to the piece on Twitter with the following statements:

“I was invited to comment for this excellent article on revelations about the process by which the @UNC_System Bd of Governors slapped me down last summer for speaking publicly about the university, race, & law in ways they didn’t like. I declined. But … I’ll say two things here.

First, the professional script in these situations is for the bullied person to emerge saying they’re unfazed, A-OK, and more committed than ever to speaking out. That’s not my script. This episode fazed me. It was very hard & remains so.

This episode demonstrates two critical methods these boards are using to assert control.  One is inaction to the point that a part of the university or university system has no choice but to comply in order to fulfill its mission.  The BOG would not vote on Professor Muller. They simply insisted another name be sent.  When the Chancellor refused to do so, the UNC Press board was in a difficult position: nominate someone else or face the inability to continue with its work. Professor Muller chose to step down.  But he should not have had to make this choice. The BOG should have voted him down if they did not want him in the role in the same way they should’ve voted on Nikole Hannah Jones when her dossier was originally put forward. Yes or No. But don’t hide behind inaction.  

Likewise, these situations send a clear message to faculty not to speak out if you want to be left alone to do the scholarship and service to the University to which they have committed their professional lives. Go along to get along. It is ironic that these same people are worried about speech on campus when their actions squelch it.

March Madness Memories

Highlights from the UNC-CH versus Baylor Game

How about those Heels!

While we are always proud of Carolina, March is a special time for basketball fans. This year is no exception. We are especially proud to see both our men’s and women’s basketball teams in the Sweet 16!  As we root for the Tar Heels to go all the way, we are mindful of the privilege we’ve had through the years to be able to watch many exciting March Madness games, and other NCAA Championship events, right here in North Carolina.

While we’re able to watch our women’s team play just down the road in Greensboro this month, we are reminded that the same politics doing harm to Carolina and the UNC System today drove the NCAA to pull seven championship events from North Carolina in 2016.  Just like the Silent Sam and Nikole Hannah-Jones incidents, coverage of the so-called “bathroom bill” made for embarrassing national headlines. In 2016, the NCAA issued the following statement and Twitter post with their decision to pull the games:

“Based on the NCAA’s commitment to fairness and inclusion, the Association will relocate all seven previously awarded championship events from North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year,”

So, as we go into the weekend to cheer our men’s and women’s teams into the Final Four, let’s be mindful that even the joy and excitement of March Madness can be ruined by politics.   

Here at the Coalition for Carolina, we will continue to do all we can to reduce the level of politicization and overreach currently taking place at Carolina and throughout the UNC System.

Go HEELS!

A Conversation with Former UNC System President Tom Ross – Part 2

It was indeed huge news when the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) pushed former UNC President Tom Ross out of his job.  It was even bigger news when the public learned that the BOG could not give a good reason for doing so.  In fact, in the BOG issued statement after the firing, they said that Ross was doing a good job.  Here is an excerpt from that BOG statement: 

“This decision has nothing to do with President Ross’s performance or ability to continue in the office. The Board respects President Ross and greatly appreciates his service to the University and to the State of North Carolina.”

So, with no good reason given for firing former President Ross, the BOG was asked if the firing was political.  If you watch the ABC 11 coverage, you will see a very uncomfortable BOG Chair emphatically deny that the firing was political.  What did former President Ross believe?  Well, more than seven years later, and after similar shocking and embarrassing incidents, we asked him.  Here is his response:

Departure as UNC System President

Coalition for Carolina: What are your thoughts about how you came to leave your job as President of the UNC System?

Former UNC System President Tom Ross: “Most people who observed that realized that it was a political decision that was made, somewhere, not sure exactly where. And the way I tried to handle that was, not to do as was going on a few months before at the University of Virginia or other places where there was a big protest for the university. I thought it would bring negative publicity and attention to the university. And I didn’t want to do that because I love the university. But I also wanted people to know what was going on because I felt like I had done a good job and I wanted to stay. And so, I wanted people to know what was going on.

And you know, I think the board made it clear that they were pleased with my performance, that things were going well. It had nothing to do with me and that was the message I wanted to get out because I wanted people to understand, first of all, it wasn’t something I did wrong –because I needed to go find another job. But it was also the beginning of what I believed was some sort of political intrusion into university governance system.

“But it was also the beginning of what I believe was some sort of political intrusion into university governance system.”

When I addressed the Board of Governors as I was leaving, I made the point that I hoped that they would always put the university first and not politics. Because I think, again… I used to tell the story about Terry Sanford when he was president of Duke. He was speaking in Atlanta and was asked a question. It was a Chamber of Commerce meeting, I think. And, he was asked the question; what has propelled North Carolina to sort of be the new South and to be a leader in economic development and so forth in the South? And his answer– while being president of Duke University–his answer was the University of North Carolina. And I think he was right. I think the university has been a tremendous asset for this state and so when I left, I wanted people to know what was going on. But I also wanted to do what I could to preserve the greatness of our university and hope everybody will do that.”

Marty Kotis and the Student Body President Debate

UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees (BOT) Chairman David Boliek advised trustees to stay out of student government campaigns and elections, but Trustee Mary Kotis did not follow that advice.  

First reported in this article by NC Policy Watch, on February 7, 2022 Kotis not only attended the online debate between candidates for student body president, but actively participated in questioning candidates and challenging some of their responses. 

Several students complained about this overreach and inappropriate behavior to Student Body President Lamar Richards.  Richards sent a complaint to the UNC System president and chair of the UNC Board of Governors’ University Governance Committee, alleging that Kotis attended an online debate, asked questions and offered “pointed, professionally inappropriate responses in the chat”.  Richards is requesting that Kotis be removed from the Board of Trustees.

In a long, detailed response, Kotis:

  • admitted to asking the very first question, which Richards says set the tone for the debate;  
  • agreed that he was not pleased with a response from a candidate, (who accused the BOT of being highly partisan) so followed up in the chat to challenge that student by name; 
  • denied that Chair Boliek made it clear that trustees were not to get involved in the ongoing Student Body Presidential election, but agreed that Boliek did remind the Board of the trustee abuse of power that happened at East Carolina University (ECU);
  • acknowledged that he knew better and referenced his own active involvement in disciplining trustees involved in the ECU incident;
  • appears to mock Richards for saying that he did not want his “peers to feel threatened, unsafe, nor uncomfortable at the hands of a Trustee”;
  • criticized a portion of Richards’ complaint as being “hyperbole and drama”; and
  • threatened a defamation complaint.

In subsequent interviews about his behavior, Kotis:

Parents don’t send their children to one of the top public universities in the country to be, unnecessarily, mocked, harassed, or disparaged by political appointees to the board of trustees.

Paul Fulton Suggestions for Good Governance

In our February 2, 2022 webinar, Winston-Salem businessman and former Board of Governors member Mr. Paul Fulton provided suggestions for how the UNC system governing bodies can provide stability and leadership that empowers not distracts. Some of his suggestions:

  • Ensure that the diversity of the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees matches the diversity of North Carolina and our universities.
  • De-politicize the selection process:
    • Distribute responsibility for appointing board members more broadly.
    • Restore the governor’s previously stripped appointing ability.
    • Perhaps adopt a law that would require minority party representation.
  • Appoint qualified board members who:
    • Fit with the universities’ needs 
    • Understand that their duty and loyalty is to the institution that the board represents not to the institution or elected official that appoints board members.
    • Perform their duties according to governance best practices.  Their role is to shape policy, not micromanage, nor get involved in day-to-day operations.

Video transcript of Mr. Paul Fulton – Winston-Salem businessman and former Board of Governors member:

I’m a firm believer that our university is the state’s greatest asset. I know a lot of other people that would agree with that. But today, as you’ve heard, a little bit already, our university tells

a very complicated story with world class highs. (We’ve certainly had a number of those.) We also have some dominating headline lows. And in recent years, the turmoil has risen sharply.

The UNC system has had its reputation tarnished. Good leaders have left our campuses and our campus has been upended and distracted. So, to me, it leaves us with one really central question, how can the UNC system provide stability and leadership that empowers not distracts the leaders of our campus level where the real work is really being done?

Put differently, how can we improve governance?

The two basic issues or problems facing our university regarding governance. Number one is over politicization of our governing boards. Number two, the selection process for our government boards and the two are definitely connected.

So here are a few suggestions from these prominent leaders. First, from Don Flow, a prominent Winston Salem business man and leader, and I quote Don, “For decades,

The UNC system has achieved excellence because of great leaders, but good leaders need an environment and a structure that supports them. They need a governance structure that enables visionary planning as well as bold action.” 

Flow continues, “We must look at the selection process. If it is not depoliticized, the UNC system will be significantly and permanently diminished.”

Former Board of Governors Chair Lou Bissette said, “This is a diverse state, but we do not have a diverse board. Of the board’s 24 members today, only two live west of Charlotte,” and Lou is very sensitive about that coming from Asheville. Only three are persons of color. Only five are women and only one Democrat. And that simply is not representative of our state.

Former Governor Jim Martin said that just as we need diversity of thought among professors, we also need diversity on the governing board. Governor Martin proposed that we again adopt a law and that is a law that would require minority party representation on governing boards.

And as Senator Burr and Erskine Bowles stated, we should debate among all of us how to improve the makeup of the board, overseeing the UNC schools, ensuring bipartisan representation, which should be a good first step towards fostering stability.

Bissette and others had authority for appointing board members should be distributed more broadly. In the past, including the governor, most folks thought it was healthy.

Bissette and Belle Wheelan, who you’ll hear from in a minute and Chancellor Moeser already introduced, Belle Wheelan the President and CEO of the agency that accredits all 16 UNC institutions both pointed out that a board member’s duties is to the institution that it represents. It’s not to the institution that appoints its members and no micromanagement.

Wheelan, Flow and former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl said board members are to shape policy. They’re not there to manage day to day operations. When a board intervenes in management, it drives away executive talent, and we all know that, Don Flow was quoted to say that, “any board that engages in operational details will always undermine the president.” Again, something we all know.

Our goal here is to elevate the discussion of governance. The best outcome we could have would be for a commission to study these proposals and others and make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature.

Hugh McColl said recently, “it is time for state leaders to step in and improve a governance situation that has become fundamentally unsustainable.”

Thank you, it’s a pleasure being here today.


Visit our YouTube channel for more content from our University Governance Webinar.

Politics and University Governance

While politics have been a factor in university governance in the past, the level of overreach UNC is experiencing is unprecedented.  We asked Former Chancellor Holden Thorp, Chancellor Emeritus James Moeser, and SACSCOC President Belle Wheelan to share their perspectives on how politics in university governance has changed over time.  Check out their responses about politics in the accompanying videos. The Coalition will examine the impact current unprecedented governance overreach in future posts.


Coalition for Carolina: How are politics impacting higher education governance around the country?

Dr. Holden Thorp: Well, we have a whole lot of incidents around the country of boards becoming more intrusive into higher education. And, mostly it relates to how conservative politics would prefer to see higher education carry out their work. And, this really comes down to the fact that there has been, over the last about 50 years or so, an effort by the political right to change facts when they need to change them to suit their political goals.


Coalition for Carolina: How did university governance work in the past?

Dr. James Moeser: I was thinking back about my time when I was chancellor from 2000 to 2008 and one of the things I realized is that I never knew quite exactly what particular party a particular board member subscribed to, or whether he or she was a member of a party.  I remember once a conversation with one of my best board chairs, Tim Burnett. And, I said to him, “Tim I thought you were a Republican.”  He said,” whatever gave you that idea?  I’m not a Republican.” I’m not sure exactly what Tim’s party affiliation was, if he had one, but, the point is that with both trustees and Board of Governors members, I was more concerned about their affiliation with an institution or a region of the state…. I was never concerned about their political affiliation.  That is to say that governance in North Carolina was essentially nonpartisan.  And now today it’s very partisan and very political and that’s a corruption, in my view. And, I think it’s something we are determined to change.


Coalition for Carolina: How have politics and university governance changed over time?

Dr. Belle Wheelan: It is true that for years our boards have been political whether the Democrats were in charge or the Republicans were in charge. It just appears that of recent, not just at UNC, but all across the country, there is a shift in the ideology of board members of what should be done, and what shouldn’t be done at that then puts them on the other side, if you will, of what the administration may propose. And, so you end up with policies that look very different than what we are accustomed to seeing because there is a change in philosophy.


Visit our YouTube channel for more content from our University Governance Webinar.

What Does It Mean to Love Carolina?

By Mimi Chapman

“He loves Carolina.”  “She really loves Carolina.” “Of course, they love Carolina.” Referencing generous alums, trusted advisors, sports coaches, legislators, recent graduates, trustees’ past and present, the “loving Carolina” moniker is applied to so many. Everyone it seems “loves Carolina.”  I don’t doubt it, but such catch phrases are often a kind of code. At this moment in the University’s history when there is so much right, so much still to do, within a governance structure that is fraught, “loving Carolina” is a code worth dissecting.

Having moved across the country years ago, I am not deeply connected to my Texas undergraduate campus. But if someone were to ask me if I loved the place, if I had a meaningful psychological connection to it, I would probably say yes.  I had professors that challenged me, read transformational books, and had important experiences that set me on my professional path. What’s more, I love who I was during my college days enthusiastic and curious about most everything, football games and formals, plays and poetry, studying abroad, new techniques in the darkroom, and chasing the moon down rural country lanes with the top down. That place gave me those memories and so I love it. But I know next to nothing about the day-to-day reality of that campus now, what it takes to run it, what the tensions are among students, faculty, and the administration.  My love is based solely in memory. 

That is not to say all Carolina alums “love Carolina” because of their memories. Some can see their time in Chapel Hill as part of a long-running river that changes the landscape and is changed by that landscape in return. Others devote time and treasure to the place in hopes that they can preserve or return the campus to some former version of itself.  Others “love Carolina” because it is struggling with hard historical questions and working to live up to ideals of equity and inclusion. Some “love Carolina” for more specific reasons. UNC Health Care saved life or limb. A campus discovery or innovation added value to their business. Maybe their community was helped by the incredible state-wide work in which many of our schools engage. Perhaps they’ve become used to having their favorite artists – Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Joshua Bell, or Yo Yo Ma – routinely show up at Carolina Performing Arts. Faculty love Carolina’s “low stone walls” culture that leads to robust cross disciplinarity, committed students, prize winning colleagues.  In some ways, we all love Carolina, but, perhaps we love different Carolinas and not all loves have room for everything that happens on our campus.  

When I go beyond the “loving Carolina” code, I believe that I am being told to trust people who “love Carolina” without question. “Loving Carolina” protects people from critique whether their decision-making is transparent or opaque, deceptive, or straight-forward, wise or misguided. But in a culture of diverse interests and conflicting values, trust based on handshakes and coded language is failing. It’s time to look under the hood.  A love for a winning sports team may be rooted in values like loyalty and submitting one’s desires for the good of the team. A love for a faculty fellowship program may be more about scholarship that thrives through autonomy and solitude. Gratitude, second chances, repaying a priceless debt characterizes a Carolina love rooted in care at UNC Hospitals. Some students love the Carolina of the blue cup and others love the fight for justice. There are Carolina parents who are astounded by the opportunities that come to their children who choose this campus. Some, like me, love all of it and others only part.

This Valentine’s day it’s time to go beyond the platitudes and the coded language. Let’s show that we love Carolina by being honest with ourselves and others about what we value about this place. And let’s talk about it. Such a dialogue could provide an opportunity to bring our governing boards, faculty, staff, students, and administration into more productive dialogue and alignment. 

Don’t Get Fooled By “Critical Theory And Indoctrination” Propaganda

Critical Race Theory, CRT, Critical Theory or whatever they are calling it these days, is not being taught in NC public schools.  North Carolina public universities are not being used for liberal indoctrination, socialist indoctrination, woke indoctrination, or any of the other scary indoctrinations some people are trying to get North Carolinians and Americans to believe is happening.  What is being done is propagandists, and people with ideological agendas, are using these terms to divide Americans in order to pave the way to power, censorship, and control over our current freedoms. 

Those driving the division cherry pick examples in order to convince readers, and listeners, that scary “indoctrinating” and “critical” teachings are real.  Two of these scare pieces were recently sent to us.  (We will not link to them so as not to further spread the “alternative facts” and misinformation.)  One of the pieces uses examples from UVA to try and make their case.  The other is written by someone who scoured the course list of NC universities to find courses that deal with race and/or diversity.  They then categorized these courses as being related to, what they call, “critical theory”.   The writer concludes with their real goal; “more control” is needed to stop these courses from “indoctrinating”.  

We’re seeing what “more control” looks like with books being banned, Pulitzer Prize winning professors being denied tenure, and other authoritarian type laws and actions being implemented. Don’t fall for the deception.  The propagandist vision for America is the antithesis of American democracy. 

What should Americans and North Carolinians believe?  The facts.  They speak for themselves.  We asked former UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp about such indoctrination scare tactics and he gave a very thoughtful, fact-driven common-sense response.  Check out his remarks in the accompanying video.


Coalition for Carolina: Some say that schools like UNC-CH churn out liberals, is that true?

Former Chancellor Thorp: Well, I used to always say about this, if the goal of the University was to get more Liberals in the world, they’re doing a pretty lousy job because North Carolina is a conservative state, and it’s probably the case that the alumni are more conservative than Liberal by pretty wide margin. And so to think that because College professors tend to be more Liberal than the alumni, that that is creating some kind of change in the ideology of the graduates. There’s no data that support that. And we have plenty of professions that lean one way or the other. I mean, airline pilots tend to be pretty conservative. I don’t get on a flight and say, ‘Hi, I don’t want you to fly my plane because you don’t agree with me about politics.’ So why do people say that about their College Professor? If more Liberals want to be College professors, then why is that any different from airline pilots or professional golf or lots of other professions that go to one side or the other?

What I think would be better would be to acknowledge the fact that there’s this difference and have an open and honest discussion about it. I’m not a fan of College presidents, for example, feeling like they have to look like they’re in agreement with both sides. That doesn’t help anyone. And for example, when you have controversial speakers, one of the things that happens is because the President might be trying to hide their politics and not wanting to upset their conservative stakeholders. They’re afraid to come out and say, Well, I disagree with this speaker because they don’t want to make their political constituents upset. So then the students and faculty correctly don’t trust them when if something happens, they say, Well, I didn’t agree with this person, but I thought the University should be a place where they could give their talk. Well, that all happens after the fact. Why not say at the beginning what this is? There’s a great example of this. When Ahmadinejad gave a talk at Columbia, there was a huge controversy. And the President of the University said, I’ll tell you what, I’ll do the intro. And he got up and did the intro and said, I’m introducing this person who I think is a petty dictator.

And he said a bunch of other terrible stuff about him. But the guy gave his talk. It turned out to be bad. I mean, he was out of power very shortly thereafter. It was bad for him, good for the world. And it’s too bad we can’t achieve that more. But a lot of it comes down to the administrators trying to code switch between the board meeting and the faculty Council meeting rather than just being honest about their views with everybody.


Visit our YouTube channel for more of our conversation with former Chancellor Thorp.